Social marketing ethics: report prepared for the National Social Marketing Centre

Eagle, Lynne (2009) Social marketing ethics: report prepared for the National Social Marketing Centre. Report. National Social Marketing Centre, Bristol, UK.

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This report starts with a brief discussion of the definition of ethics and of the types of ethical dilemmas that may occur within social marketing activity. The major ethical frameworks that are evident within the academic literature are then discussed before an examination of specific issues relating to targeting, the use of fear appeals and the role of culture in establishing ethical standards.

The strengths and weaknesses of codes of ethics are then reviewed, with challenges in development, gaining acceptance and adoption highlighted. Mechanisms that could be considered in maintaining codes, providing advice on ethical dilemmas and possible disciplinary processes that might be appropriate within a sector that does not have formal membership and accompanying disciplinary procedures are then presented.

Before considering each of these topic areas, there is, of course the issue of who defines desired behaviour, which behaviours to target for change and the level of resources that should be allocated to this. Generally, behaviour change may be aimed at 'social good', such as improving overall population health and wellbeing, or minimising health inequalities and addressing obesity and exercise issues. Interventions aimed at minimising the adverse effects of behaviours such as smoking or unwise alcohol consumption may be seem as an infringement of personal freedoms, rights which need to be balanced against the actual or potential harm inflicted on others through these actions.

Additionally, consideration of potential harm to others that may arise as a consequence of a social marketing intervention should be a requirement in the development of any intervention. Indeed, in developing interventions, we must ask, "who has the mandate to represent large and diverse populations for the purpose of informed consent, and how can this be implemented?". How are individual freedoms of choice and individual rights balanced against benefits for society as a whole? And, in communicating risk, who decides whether levels of risk that may be acceptable to different segments of society are acceptable to society as a whole.

Some specific criticisms of social marketing have included the following:

-The concept of exchange rests on the view that people act rationally when there is much evidence to suggest this is not the case. -Social marketing is patronizing and manipulative with its focus on behaviour change, -Social marketing appeals to people's base instincts -Social marketing extends the power imbalance between the state and individuals in favour of the state.

A detailed analysis of these issues can be found in the original paper cited above. What is clear however is that social marketing, like all other interventions, needs to be guided by ethical standards. The checklist and draft code at the end of this paper sets out some of the key questions that social marketers need to address to ensure ethical practise is maintained.

Ethics is a term which is debated vigorously, with multiple definitions evident, depending on the perspective of the discipline within which the debate is occurring.

For example, within philosophy, the focus may be on moral choices, i.e. those regarding what is right or just behaviour, as opposed to simply remaining within the provisions of the law in a specific situation and the nature of morals themselves. Within specific professions, such as medicine or accountancy, the debate may be more focussed on the rules or standards governing the conduct of members of their profession.

Item ID: 20372
Item Type: Report (Report)
Keywords: social marketing ethics
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Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2016 23:16
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1505 Marketing > 150502 Marketing Communications @ 100%
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