Case In Point: Maybe a Different Point of View at Product Placement

The case and point topic that stood out to me most was product placement in TV shows. While in many shows it is quite obvious, some examples that come up are The Walking Dead and the brand new, bright and shiny, Hyundai car they drive during the zombie apocalypse, but this is actually very prevalent in many main stream media like movies. I previously talked about the movie the Truman Show, and while in the other post I talked about the privacy concern, they actually poked fun at the fact that TV shows and movies have product placement. During one scene in the movie, many of the characters in the “show” clearly are promoting different products such as utility kitchen knives, or entering the house with a 6 pack and all the beers are facing the same direction.

Even though they are mocking it in a way, many TV shows treat it that way so blatantly. But they have a reason for it. Product placement pays for so many of the shows and movies we watch. We like to think that we as individuals are above that, but the thing is if we needed the money to make something, we would fit it in there. When shows aren’t shown with commercial breaks, there’s no other way to advertise with them, so product placement becomes the only way. We ask the ethical issues of taking money to promote something, but in reality it plays such a small role in the film or TV show that it doesn’t matter. As a film major, if I received payment to promote a product in my Thesis, or anything else I have worked on, I would take it because the money they would give me, I would put too good use and make the film that much better.

I know I am looking at this in a different way then most, because of the fact that I am not only a viewer, but I am a creator of the media. And I am proud of that fact. Film is an art, no matter if it’s a commercial, TV show, Documentary, or feature film, and as artists, we will take any help to create our art the way we want too. If that means that a certain scene in our film will have Starbucks cup, or a brand new shiny Hyundai in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, then so be it. The point of it is too help our art be shown in a world that is driven by money. Every thing that is scene on the big screen or on the TV screen, is being made by people whose jobs are to create that. They still need to live and survive while making these films, and in this world, they need all the help they can get.

So, in conclusion, the idea of product placement, and screaming how good a product is can seem pretty ethical issue, but when you look at it through the creator’s point of view, its much more of a reason too show their creation, than to make money. Product placement is a necessary thing, and as long as TV shows and movies are relevant, which I don’t see them going away, its going to continue to be a way of paying for them and getting them to the public.

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Case In Point: Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”

tumblr_mavu32nwMZ1rhp4nco1_1280-1apceh5Campaign for Real Beauty

In today’s society, beauty and fashion advertisements are everywhere. While almost everyone understands that they are typically photoshopped and feature unrealistic images of women, people still hold out hope that there is some truth to campaigns. Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” began in 2004, with was brought on by the idea that the media’s portrayal of models has a negative impact on the self-esteem of “real” women (Plaisance, 2014). The entire concept of the campaign is to feature these “real” women, without any alteration in Photoshop. When people found out that, in fact, the “natural” women were being Photoshopped, the responses were very negative.

Personally, I felt betrayed upon hearing this news. While I was not aware of the campaign in 2004, I have been very aware of its continuation over the past few years. While this campaign has been extremely successful, winning top prizes at the International Advertising Festival in 2007 (Plaisance, 2014), it is now relatively controversial. Intended to be inspiring and a boost to self-esteem, I know question the authenticity of this campaign every time a new a segment is released.

This brings about a discussion on the authenticity of advertising, and the question of how far is too far? While Dove may not be the worst offender in terms of photoshopping their models, other companies, without a doubt, take it past the limit. High-fashion companies, especially, are at fault. One fashion brand, ModCloth, has become the first company to officially take the “No Photoshop Pledge”. They are not alone though – Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie brand, has also made a similar promise. The issue is, however, that while these companies may not be Photoshopping their models (or so they say), the models are still all young and slim. They really only represent a small portion of their target audience, and while that may not be blatantly photoshopping someone’s body, it’s still a limitation on who is being represented in their ads.

In my opinion, advertising needs to be more honest. While exaggeration is expected in ads, I think a line needs to be drawn and companies must understand that it is unacceptable to go past that.

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media Ethics: Kep Principles for Responsible Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Case in Point: Data Mining Shopper

Marketing has become much more invasive in this digital age. Many companies use data analytics to collect information on customers’ lives and their purchases. This information is then used to better market the companies’ products and services to the correct target audiences. Plaisance (2014) found that Target used a product buying algorithm to predict when certain women were pregnant during their second trimester (p. 142). A high school girl from Minneapolis was receiving Target advertisements and coupons that were “pregnancy-related.” The father of this girl did not know she was pregnant and called the store to complain. However, he later called to apologize, as the truth had come out (Plaisance, 2014, p. 142).

I don’t think that Target did anything wrong here. Google and many other websites collect information on people everyday and use it to give us more relevant advertisements. Target and other stores are doing just this. They are using patterns to predict people’s future buying needs, which potentially leads to brand loyalty. If the prediction algorithm had been wrong, I might have had a different opinion here. However, the algorithm that Target used was still correct. In terms of harm, they did not do any. If the girl had told her father that she was pregnant beforehand, then they would probably not be surprised to receive those coupons. The harm lies within the truth between the girl and her father, not between target and received coupons.

When used to create a better experience for the customer, there is no harm. However, companies must be careful with this valuable information and make sure it does not fall into the wrong hands. In 2013, up to 40 million credit and debit cards could have been breached. According to CNN, around the time of Black Friday, hackers broke into Target’s secure retail information. That means they either slipped malware into the terminals where customers swipe their credit cards, or they collected customer data while it was on route from Target to its credit card processors” (Wallace, Pepitone, O’Toole, Isidore, Pagliery, & Johns, 2013). If customers’ information is compromised like this, it becomes unethical. Not only does it break many ethics of secrecy and autonomy within the company, but it is right out stealing from the customers. Many banks and companies were able to handle the breach and their customers, including myself, received new credit and debit cards. Target’s spokeswoman reported that the breach had been “identified and resolved” (Wallace, Pepitone, O’Toole, Isidore, Pagliery, & Johns, 2013).

The collection of customers’ retail and purchase information can benefit the customers, but they can also hurt the customers if not taken care of properly. I think that marketers should continue to have access to customers’ information, but proper security precautions should constantly be monitored.

References

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media Ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Wallce, G., Pepitone, J., O’Toole, J., Isidore, C., Pagliery, J., & Johns, J. (December 19, 2013). Target: 40 million credit cards compromised. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2013/12/18/news/companies/target-credit-card/

Case in Point: Dove Campaign For Real Beauty

When picking a case in point to look at I chose to examine the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty”.  I have looked at this campaign various times over my communication career and it has always interested me in different ways. Reading this case in point, it really opened my eyes to the fact that it is hard to come by advertisements, especially print, that Photoshop and other “touch up” applications have not been used on. As an avid user of Photoshop with my internship in the fashion industry I was able to see this first hand as well and it proved the point to me even more. Whether it is simply product photos for an e-commerce site, or an advertisement for the brand, photos are too often manipulated and touched up to make women appear more attractive in hopes of selling the product better.

 The real beauty campaign was very refreshing when it first came out and made women feel like Dove was advocating for natural beauty and feeling comfortable in their own skin. After reading this case in point, I am disappointed in Unilever and Dove as companies for allowing touch ups on their photos.

The idea behind the real beauty is that the women in the advertisements were completely natural and still felt comfortable in their skin and were encouraging all women to follow along in this. In the campaign, a skit was performed with a police detective that drew portraits of women based on what others told him about them. This video was very touching and showed what women truly think of themselves. After finding out that the photos in the advertisement were touched up, it defeated the message that the company was trying to send to consumers and especially their women based target market. I think that since they were trying to express the message of being comfortable in your own skin, the attractiveness of the models should not have mattered. I understand that they wanted their advertisement to be visually appealing but at the same time, that is exactly what the campaign was trying to diminish. A lot of women were inspired and given a lot of confidence from the company using models that did not fit the picture perfect stereotype. What is truly disappointing is learning that the company still retouched photos even with the supposed philosophy of sharing your natural beauty backing their campaign.

Case in Point: The Gun Owner Next Door

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred in December 2012, the debate over gun ownership rights and regulations has been more popular than ever. At Sandy Hook, over twenty lives were lost when an intruder opened fire inside the school. Only days later, The Journal News, a newspaper in upstate New York, released an article titled, “Map: Where are the gun permits in your neighborhood?” The article included interactive map of where all of the pistol permit owners are located in two New York counties (Plaisance, 2014, p. 159).

The release of the article immediately sparked a debate over multiple ethical issues in the media. Gun rights supporters argued that the release of this information was unfair, violated their privacy, and turned them into targets (Plaisance, 2014, p. 159). Were it not for state-specific regulations, I would fully agree to this. New York is one of only ten states in the entire country that allows gun ownership information to be public (Sibley & MacNeal, 2013). Studies also showed that, while the Sandy Hook tragedy did encourage law enforcement officials to push for stricter gun control laws, more and more states were moving towards making gun ownership information private (Sibley & MacNeal, 2013). I think this movement is a great idea. While gun permits are regulated more so than other types of products, owners deserve the same privacy rights as any other hobbyist. For example, just because people own model airplanes does not mean there should be a public database of model airplane owners with all of their addresses, names, ages, and other personal information included. The only reason this specific article is justified is because this information is legally public in the state of New York, and all gun permit holders are subject to this when they apply for and receive these permits.

While I understand gun ownership is a much more complicated topic than owning model airplanes, the overall message still remains: gun owners deserve the right to keep their information private as much as any other non-owner deserves the right to stay private. The release of this article in The Journal News not only made the gun owners feel unsafe in their communities, but also turned their own staff members into targets of outrage. This map was an unnecessary attack on gun owners that did not benefit anyone. The journalists responsible for creating and publishing this map should have taken the possible consequences into consideration before publishing it. From a utilitarian standpoint, the consequences of publishing this article far outweighed any benefit that was found from the information, so the article was not successful in reaching the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Additionally, New York passed legislation to keep gun owner information private only weeks after this scandal occurred. Clearly even the government officials recognized that this information should not be publicly accessible and gun owners deserve the right to keep their information private.

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media Ethics: Kep Principles for Responsible Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Sibley, R. & MacNeal, C. (2013). Majority of states prohibit access to gun records. The Sunlight Foundation. Retrieved from http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/01/18/majority-states-and-counting-dont-allow-gun-records-be-public/

Case In Point: Covering the Moment of Death in War

In 2009 a group of Marines were ambushed by Taliban figures in Afghanistan. Julie Jacobson, an Associated Press photographer was on patrol with the soldiers and caught the moment on film. One of the photographs that Julie Jacobson took was of 21-year old Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard. As he lay dying from an injury sustained during the attack, surrounded by his comrades, she took a picture. Then, after his family requested that the photograph not be published, the Associated Press released a photo essay and narrative video that included the image. The picture was received with a firestorm of protest, but the press defended their actions by saying it was necessary to show the world the severity of the war and death in combat.

The actions of this photographer violate the sacredness of privacy on two levels. First of all, she stole the last moments of this young man’s death and used his image as a form of propaganda. In this moment Joshua Bernard was probably thinking only of home and the short years he spent in this world, but Julie Jacobson tainted the purity of his private death with the click of a button. Even after the family of the fallen soldier requested that the picture not be published, the Associated Press used this gruesome picture of their baby boy dying and in pain, and published it for the world to see. The Associated Press thought of the story before they thought of human dignity, and they denied the requests of a grieving family.

When I started to write this blog post I thought for sure I disagreed with the Associated Press and their publication of the image. What the associated Press did can be viewed as wrong on many levels, and I think the family of the fallen soldier should have had the right to decide what was done with the photo. However, sometimes words aren’t enough. In order for individuals to fully believe or react to something, they often times need imagery to make it “real”. Although pictures of wartime are hard to look at, and they are gruesome, they are sometimes necessary. What I have a problem with in this specific case, is the publication going against the wishes of Joshua Bernard’s family.

In August of 2014 The Atlantic published an article titled, “The War Photo No One Would Publish” The article is about a photo that was taken during Desert Storm in 1991 of an Iraqi soldier being burned alive inside his jeep. The author recounts how the photo was banned from multiple newspapers and virtually no one in the United States would publish it. The author also talks to the photographer who took the picture. It was this article and what the photographer had to say that made me think wartime photos, although hard to look at, are necessary.

At one point in the article the photographer, Kenneth Jerecke, talks about how difficult it was for him to take these photograph’s and how he constantly felt dishonorable snapping pictures of the dying. But then he goes on to say, “…if I don’t take pictures like these, people like my mom will think war is what they see in movies…it’s what I came here to do. It’s what I have to do.” (DeGhett, 2014) There are so many people out there who are blind to the struggles going on in the world, and sometimes it takes a shocking photograph to open up their eyes.

Whether it’s a photograph of a starving child, a dying soldier, or a drug addict in New York City, the photo reveals a problem. These problems cannot always be properly explained in text, and a four-page description doesn’t do justice to a single image that can spark a movement. I personally believe that wartime imagery, and images that expose an issue in general, are necessary to properly inform the general public. However, I do feel that when it comes to the moment of death, the family has the right to the photograph before anyone else.

Resources

DeGhett, Torie Rose. (8/08/2014). The War photo no one would publish. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/08/the-war-photo-no-one-would-publish/375762/

Plaisance, P.L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Case in Point: “Campaign for Real Beauty”

Campaign for Real Beauty

Throughout the course of taking Media Ethics I have become more aware of ethical issues that are prevalent in the media in our everyday lives. During this semester one particular case in point article that found to be most interesting was the “Campaign for Real Beauty.” I was drawn to this campaign when it surfaced in 2004. That was the peak of body image issues for me when I was in middle school and I remember feeling so inspired by the women in the advertisements. The video always gave me goosebumps and I more remember the feeling I felt when watching them. However, after reading this article I found myself rethinking my opinion on Dove products and questioning how ethical the company really was.

Whether it is ethical or not photoshopping models happens every day. Dove beauty products stands for “real beauty” which is something that should not be taken lightly especially with how dominant body image issues are in today’s world. Dove prides themselves on making women feel beautiful in their own skin but how ethical can they be if they are photo shopping women who are supposed to be role models for the rest of us?

I honestly felt a little betrayed when I found out that they photoshopped the models. We have learned in class and from our textbook that it is crucial to “tell the truth” and to be “transparent” but clearly Dove did not follow the code of ethics for advertising. Kant said that truth and transparency define what it means to live an ethical life, he also said that freedom comes with serious duty. Overall, Kant’s belief and duty to this world was to “serve the public.” Kant would not approve of the photoshopping of these women because it was implied that this was “real beauty” since they used the exact terminology (Plaisance, 2014). Not only is this ethically wrong but I believe it is morally wrong as well. The media portrays the perfect women to be slim and skinny and this has affected many women. When Dove’s advertisement surfaced it was a big deal. They were going against everything that the media does and tells us to do and to find out they did the same by deceiving their consumers is very upsetting.

Another major rule to follow in ethics is “do not inflict harm.” This campaign is harmful once you know the truth. I know I was affected when I found out the truth, I questioned Dove as a company and it also brought up body image issues in a negative way. It may not physically harm us but it most definitely harms us emotional, especially women. I start to question if any of the images we see are real? Our perceptions are being skewed not only by Dove but almost every beauty industry out there. When is someone going to give us a non-photoshopped image?

After reviewing this ethical dilemma, my outlook on Dove has altered. I won’t say that I will never buy one of their products again but I will say their actions have been unethical and that is not acceptable in the world of advertising.

Case in Point: Product Placement Makes Shows Real, but Is It Ethical?

The Case in Point that I chose to look at in the Media Ethics was “Product Placement Makes Shows Real, but Is It Ethical?” I chose to explore this ethical issue because while studying as a communications major I began to notice product placement more than ever before and it was something that I became very interested in. Brands are seen to create authenticity for movies and television shows. I remember when I was little I used to watch a show called Zoe 101 and in this show all the characters had Apple laptops, but instead of an apple for the icon they all had different fruits that covered up the apple. I thought this was interesting because I had Apple products in my household growing up and it was obvious to me what products they were using; why not just have the logo? Brands that are used in the media help create an authentic environment and a sense of credibility to the audience, and can help the audience make an emotional connection to the program they are watching, but does that mean it is ethical?

Up until now I did not think that there were ethical issues tied to product placement but after reading this Case in Point article it is making me think twice. One example of questionable product placement in this article was the movie “Flight” with Denzel Washington. The problem isn’t so much to do with the consumer but more the artistic integrity of the production (Plaisance, 2014). When Denzel was landing the plane there was a Budweiser label present throughout the scene. Having the audience distracted by this label opposed to watching the hard work and artistic content that went into the directors creation of this movie could be considered unethical. Another reason why this specific case can be considered unethical is because in the movie Denzel is considered an alcoholic and is drinking a Budweiser while operating a commercial aircraft, although he is not only drinking Budweiser in the film, this specific product is most noticeable when he is in the act of flying a plane. This creates an opposite effect for the brand Budweiser creating the audience to think of this brand in a negative way.

This issue relates to this course in many ways. This issue can be related to transparency in the media, which is something I did not know existed before taking this class. Transparency is prevalent in product placement because these brands are being used as a way to drive the audience away from the film and focus their attention to the product. Overall after looking into the pros and cons of product placement I have found that there are some unethical aspects to this form of advertising. However product placement is most of the time in lieu of traditional advertising which is a whole other ethical issue. I would prefer to see product placement than an advertisement.

References:

Plaisance, P.L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Case in Point: The Gun Owner Next Door

The Sandy Hook school shootings that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 first graders were murdered ignited the debate once again of gun control in the United States. After the shooting, the Journal News, which is a newspaper that serves Westchester and Rockland counties in New York published an interactive map of the names and addresses to those who were issued handgun permits by the local government. This interactive map generated a lot of controversy and debate over autonomy.

To start off I’ll admit that I am a little biased in the debate towards gun control. While I am not against someone owning a gun, there needs to be stricter regulations in order to get one. Legally what the Journal News published was not against the law. Local governments keep handgun permits on record which are open to the public. What the Journal News published is shocking and disturbing, but that is a good thing. The interactive map shows how widespread gun ownership is. Autonomy is about not just what we can do, but what we ought to do. We ought to show everyone that has a gun, it’s on public record, it should be published. If they don’t like that they’re address and the type of gun is being published then they shouldn’t own a gun in the first place. According to Dwight Worly of the Journal News, “The people have as much of a right to know who owns guns in their communities as gun owners have to own weapons.” (Haughney, 2013, p. A15).

Philosopher John Rawls uses the sense of autonomy of fulfill one’s duty. As a journalist, your duty is to report the news in a fair and honest way to inform the public. John Rawls would be okay with the Journal News interactive map. He would  argue that the journalists were just doing their jobs by informing the public about the issue at hand. I happen to agree with that. You can’t argue with news reporters doing their job, especially in this case, where all the information was public record. A journalist’s duty is to report the news fairly and inform the public and they did that in this case. You can see on the map how many people have guns and it is scary that it is so much. And the map only showed two counties in New York. Imagine if we got to see an interactive map of everyone who is registered to own a gun in the entire United States? Autonomy is about the ability to control “why” we do something. Why did they publish the interactive map? They published it to inform the public and to show how many people own guns and to show the public how serious an issue gun control is.

Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”

The portrayal of women in the media and advertising has been an ongoing issue for years. Many women and young girls feel the pressure to be beautiful, and define “beauty” as tall, skinny, perfect skin ect. This idea of what a beautiful women should look like has been embedded in women’s minds for decades. Girls are being taught at a young age to obsess over their appearance, the consequences for some girls can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

dove1

Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” was created to start a conversation and raise awareness on these issues, to show women that each individual body type is beautiful. The goal of the campaign is to make a positive change in generations to come. Not everyone agrees with the importance of focusing on these issues and centering the attention on a women’s physical appearance. Some feel that even bringing up the issue creates the desire to be beautiful rather than intelligent. According to an article from Huffington Post, “Pozner acknowledges that the beauty message is problematic, but deems it necessary. ‘Until we get to a point in the culture where the dominant messages about girls and women are not focused on their physical bodies, then we do need to actually reaffirm a broader and more innate, internal definition of what beauty is.’” (Bahadur, 2014) Aside from critics, I believe the issue will be in conversation if not, in a women’s mind wether or not Dove started the campaign. The issue was present before the campaign started, if anything the ads are encoring women to feel more confident about themselves.

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This campaign series was also criticized for photoshopped images. A quote from Pascal Dangin, a photo re-toucher, was taken out of context in an interview with The New Yorker magazine. Dangin was quoted for saying “Do you know how much retouching was on that? But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.” (Plaisance, 2014) The photo re-toucher later stated that the only retouching done was directed only to remove dust and do color correction. The retouching of the photos did not effect the natural beauty of the women. This brings up the ethical issue of transparency. It is questionable wether the company is hiding the editing from the public or if they are telling the truth.

In my opinion, even if the photos had been retouched, even more than claimed, the idea behind the campaign remains. It displays different body types and races showing the importance of feeling comfortable in your own skin. Although Dove’s ethical responsibility to the public is questioned, it doesn’t effect the message that the campaign set out. A reader of Ad Age stated, “I think we are losing sight of what this campaign is really about — loving your own body, even if the photo was retouched a bit, it still conveys the fact that all women are beautiful, no matter what size or shape.” (Neff, 2008) I could not agree with this statement more. The message is much more powerful than the photos itself. Body images is a serious issue in today’s society and should be recognized in the media in a more positive and accepting light.

Sources:

Neff, J. (2008, May 9). Dove: ‘Real Women’ Ads Were not ‘Digitally Altered’ Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://adage.com/article/news/dove-real-women-ads-digitally-altered/126945/

Bahadur, N. (2014, February 6). Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign Turns 10: How A Brand Tried To Change The Conversation About Female Beauty. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/21/dove-real-beauty-campaign-turns-10_n_4575940.html

Plaisance, P.L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.