Category Archives: Marketing and Advertising

Candy Packaging Ethics: How Much Air Can A Candy Box Contain Without Being Deceptive?

Peeps Manufacturing

Stephanie Escobar is suing the makers of “Mike and Ike,”  claiming that it is misleading customers by filling nearly half the box with air rather than candy. She bought a box of “Mike and Ike” for  $4 at a Los Angeles movie theater, and was stunned  to find that  46 percent of the it  was filled air, what is known in the business as “slack-fill.”  She checked a box of Hot Tamale candy sold by the same company, and there was only 54% candy in that box too, disappointing her greatly.

Her suit argues candy maker “Just Born Quality” Confections is violating California’s false advertising law, unfair competition law and the consumer legal remedies act.

(This is a separate movie candy ethics issue from the apparently obscene $4 price, much on my mind since on my recent visit to the the theater to see “Fences,” a drink, hot dog and popcorn cost me $19. 85. Movies charge those prices to keep the prices of tickets down, and in the aggregate, that is better for consumers and the theater than charging 20 bucks for the movie and half as much for the junk food.)

Just Born vice president Matt Pye promised a vigorous defense to the “baseless allegations.”“Our products and labels comply with all FDA regulations and provide consumers with the information they need to make informed purchase decisions,” Pye said in a statement.

That rather ducks the issue, doesn’t it? How often have you been shocked that a container is mostly air? Many products, candy notable among them, have been reducing the size of the product sold rather than raising the price. That is fair enough, if one can see what one is purchasing. A box, however, doesn’t permit a consumer to see what’s inside. The argument that the labels are compliant isn’t the same as proving that it’s ethical to have a container that’s twice as large as the the contents require.

Fortunately, I’ve always hated Mike and Ike. AND Hot Tamale. But now I’m wondering about my Raisinettes…

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Pointer: ABA Journal

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Unethical Websites, Unethical Publicity Campaign, Unethical Studio…Of The Month.

...but none for stupidity.

…but none for stupidity.

“Do what?”

“Sure, why not? What a great idea!”

As part of its marketing campaign for 20th Century Fox’s new  film “A Cure for Wellness,” the studio created and launched realistic websites for the Sacramento Dispatch, the Houston Leader, the Salt Lake Guardian, the New York Morning Post and  the Indianapolis Gazette. They included a graphic displaying the current weather , and above the above the story, the standard labels, such as  News, Business, Sports, Entertainment. None of these publications are real. None of them included any disclaimers or explanations.

They did contain fake anti-Donald Trump stories. One especially popular one among Trump haters on social media claimed that the President  was refusing  to provide California federal support  as 188,000 citizens were evacuated to avoid the Oroville Dam overflow. Sanctuary cities, you know.  Trump is so mean. Can we impeach him yet?

Eventually the sites and stories were discovered to be fake. When asked  about the strategy, a spokesperson for Regency Enterprises, the film’s  production company, explained that  “‘A Cure for Wellness’ is a movie about a ‘fake’ cure that makes people sicker. “As part of this campaign, a ‘fake’ wellness site healthandwellness.co was created and the company partnered with a fake news creator to publish fake news.”

Oh. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, The Internet, Unethical Websites

Ethics Lesson: Judges Can’t Campaign Like Other Candidates

false-campaign-ad

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia suspended Judge Stephen Callaghan for two years and fined him $15,000 for a campaign flyer that it deemed dishonest. The court said that the flier  depicted the incumbent judge, Gary Johnson, as “partying” with President Obama. Johnson had visited the White House for a federally required conference on fighting child trafficking, but  he didn’t see Obama there, there was no party, and no function involving alcohol. The flier was mailed out five days before the May 2016 election, which Callaghan won.  Callaghan won the election by 220 votes.

The flier was “in every sense, materially false” according to the decision. You can see it above. Photos of Obama and Johnson are shown next to each other. Obama is shown holding a beer and streamers are in the background. The caption reads, “Barack Obama & Gary Johnson Party at the White House.” The opposite side of the flier read,

“While Nicholas County lost hundreds of jobs to Barack Obama’s coal policies, Judge Gary Johnson accepted an invitation from Obama to come to the White House to support Obama’s legislative agenda. That same month, news outlets reported a 76% drop in coal mining employment. Can we trust Judge Gary Johnson to defend Nicholas County against job-killer Barack Obama?”

After Johnson objected to the flier ( and probably threatened to sic the Judicial Ethics Panel on him), Callaghan removed the flier from his Facebook pages and ran radio ads saying the flier’s “specific characterization of the White House visit may be inaccurate and misleading,” and “candidate Callaghan apologizes for any misunderstanding or inaccuracies.” Continue reading

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The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016: The Last Of The Worst

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Ethics Alarms wraps up the Worst in 2016 Ethics with the usual education and journalism breaches, Ethics Dunce of the Year, and more delights for the sadistic…

Unethical Government Fiasco Of The Year

The Flint, Michigan water crisisA failure of competence, diligence, responsibility and honesty, compounded by bureaucrats, elected officials, the city of Detroit, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the EPA made people sick and cost billions.

Good job, everybody!

Scam of the Year

Sen.Ted Cruz’s fake “official” mailer before the Iowa Caucus. Cruz’s campaign  sent out mailers labeled in all capital letters, “ELECTION ALERT,” “VOTER VIOLATION,” “PUBLIC RECORD,” and “FURTHER ACTION NEEDED.” On the other side, the mailer said, in red letters at the top, “VOTING VIOLATION.” The text read:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.

This is why Trump’s nickname for Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted,” was crude but accurate.

Ethics Dunces Of The Year

All the social media users and others who ended Facebook friendships, genuine friendships and relationship over the 2016 election. Haven’t they ever seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Morons. Shame on all of them.

Weenies of the Year

The college students who demanded that exams be cancelled, therapists be available, safe spaces be found, puppies be summoned and cry-ins be organized because the awful candidate they supported in the Presidential election lost, as candidates often do.

How embarrassing.

Unethical University Of The Year 

Liberty University.  This is the most competitive of categories, with all the schools that railroaded male students based on questionable sexual assault claims while quailing in fear of the Dept. of Education’s “Dear Colleague Letter,” and all the schools that signaled that the results of a simple election justified PTSD treatment for their shattered charges, as well as making it clear to any students who dared to tilt Republican that they were persona non grata. Nonetheless, Liberty University takes the prize with its unique combination of greed, hypocrisy, and warped values. From the Ethics Alarms post:

Last week, with great fanfare, Liberty hired Ian McCaw as its new athletic director. “My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America,” McCaw said during a news conference.

This is his first paying assignment since May, when he left his job as the athletic director at Baylor, also a Christian university. His departure was made essential after a thorough investigation that found that those overseeing Baylor’s  football team as well as the management of  the athletic department—that is, McCaw— had been informed of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by team members and had ignored it, as any good football-loving Christian would….especially when a star was involved.

Continue reading

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The Most Unethical 2017 Super Bowl Ad Is Yet To Be Revealed, But The Prize For The Most Shameless Is A Lock

Of course, all Super Bowl TV ads by definition are horribly unethical, exploiting for commerce a professional blood sport that renders healthy young men brain-damaged for a drooling public’s coarse amusement. To Hell with all the ads I say. Still, some are worse than others.

History suggests that the obnoxious Audi commercial above won’t be the worst, but it nicks a wider range of ethical breaches than the typical Super Bowl ad. For that it deserves, at very least, a hardy Ethics Alarm Bronx cheer, or “raspberry”…

to wit…

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society, Workplace

“Start The Car!” Ethics

“Start the car!” shouts the woman in a ubiquitous IKEA TV commercial for its “Winter Sale.” She has received her receipt, and  the total is so low that she assumes there has been a mistake.  She quickly exits the store with bags of purchases, and while running calls to her husband in the car outside so he will pick her up and hit the gas before someone comes to reclaim the merchandise or demand more payment. As they drive away with what she thinks are her ill-gotten gains, she lets out a whoop of triumph.

The narration explains that IKEA’s sale prices are so low, this how you will feel.

The commercial is unethical. It trivializes and normalizes theft, and rejects the ethical values of honesty, integrity and responsibility. Apparently the ad has been running internationally for a long time (it only just started showing up in my region) and is very popular. Writes one industry commentator, “People relate to the message because at one point or another while shopping we’ve all had that feeling that we just got away with something.”

Really? I haven’t. My father didn’t either (my mom was another story.) I’ve told waitresses and clerks that they undercharged me. I’ve returned excessive change. I’ve handed back money to tellers when two bills stuck together. You don’t? What the hell’s the matter with you? Were you raised by Fagin?

Though the commercial was a hit and positively accepted in all of the nations where it was viewed, there is hope:  it also received many negative comments and complaints. An Advertising Standards Board—I cannot for the life of me find out which; the U.S. has no such board. I’m guessing Sweden— thus considered whether this advertisement breached   its Advertisers Code of Ethics.

The breach would be that the commercial isn’t socially responsible, since it represents taking merchandise from a store that hasn’t been fully paid for as normal and acceptable conduct. The Board viewed the advertisement in light of the complaints and decided that the ad was ethically inoffensive.

Guess why.

No, go ahead, guess.

Continue reading

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The Ethical Problem With The Cinnebon Tweet

cinnebon-fisher

First I was going to post an essay about Cinnebon’s humorous tweet above under the title “How Humor Dies.” Our culture is in serious trouble if a clever, playful, obvious joke like this attracts so much criticism that it generates a retraction and an apology.Clearly, there are Political Correctness Furies on the Left and  Puritan Scolds on the Right lurking and  lying in wait to make any attempt at levity too much of a risk for all but the socially inept or defiantly rude to attempt. I confess, I laughed out loud when I saw Cinnebon’s gag. I thought the company deserved applause, not opprobrium.

Then I thought about it, and decided to make the episode an Ethics Alarms ethics quiz. Does the fact that Cinnebon can be accused of using Carrie Fisher’s tragic death as product promotion outweigh the cleverness of the tweet, or was the joke a natural one for the sticky bun-makers to make? Who better to remind us of all the jokes about Leia’s odd hairstyle when “Star Wars” debuted? Maybe this was one example where the “she would have approved” standard might be more than a rationalization. Is there any doubt that Carrie Fisher would have laughed at Cinnebon’s joke more heartily than anyone?

Fortunately, I thought some more.

I hadn’t realized until just a few minutes ago that the tweet was issued on the day Carrie Fisher died.  Ick, and also, yecchh, as well as “Ethics Foul!”

It doesn’t matter how clever, well-executed or funny it was. Krusty the Clown could have told Cinnebon what was wrong with the tweet in a trice, if they had the sense to ask, and Krusty wasn’t a cartoon character.

Too soon.

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