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Glenn Barres

Co-Founder, Idea Sponge, Inc.

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Should Advertising Platforms be responsible for the Ads they serve?

I see a lot of advertising platforms (i.e. Adwords, clickbank, etc) popping up these days and unfortunately I also see a lot of "unethical" ads being served. What I mean by Unethical is an ad that makes the claim of miraculous product or discovery and the landing page is some bogus funnel to capture your contact info. Another example of this that many probably have noticed are the bogus Facebook ads that have a picture of a hot attractive person in order to catch your eye, but the ad text or landing page is about something completely irrelevant to the ad image. This form of deceptive marketing isn't a new one (snake oil anyone?), but it seems to be on a rise and just adds to the increasing amount of unwanted noise.

Example of a deceptive Ad: http://i.imgur.com/HIKbF.png

So in closing, should the platforms be responsible for quality advertising they push much like the driver of a vehicle is just as guilty of an offense committed by a passenger.

Topics: business ethics
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    Mar 11 2012: Of course!
  • Mar 11 2012: I would rather argue in favor of responsibility while advertising. Most often people are deceived by ads. However, on the other side, one would caution consumers never to get so much naive trust in what ads always propose.
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    Mar 6 2012: If the platform charges for carrying the advertising then it seems reasonable for them to have some responsibility for it. It is, after all, their business.
  • Mar 5 2012: Advertising and marketing are the equivalent of pollution. We are ruining our environment (and our physical and mental health) by chasing immediate gratification.

    Advertising is a parasite. The purveyors sell it as a necessary way to bring you cheaper goods, but how many people realise that more than half the cost of a pair of trainers has paid for advertising, competition prizes, and profits for yet more middle men. Actually nothing that will help with product improvements or the quality of life of those who work in the factories or indeed creating the product in a way that will detriment the earth to a smaller extent.
    Without advertising the price would be halved and your money would go towards better aims. In many cases it would revive local industry as it once again became economic to buy local.

    So while advertising is touted as creating industry, really it is destroying it in the true sense of the word. Goods travel further, using more fuel, are made under dubious working conditions by people on low wages, last the minimum permissible time to make a sale. The turnover in items promoted by the advertising industry serves to quickly fill our planet with discarded goods to put alongside the broken goods that prematurely failed.

    Advertising should be made accountable for end to end satisfaction for the workers, the public who have their visual landscape polluted, the viewers who have to spend an extra hour watching a movie on TV, the bandwidth consumed by irrelevant emails, the consumption of glossy paper in magazines, etc., etc..

    It would seem that the half of the price of goods that has occurred due to advertising, ultimately becomes wasted resources, visual pollution, wasted time, cloying radio announcements and pollution from extra paper or throw away prizes.

    It started with the pens that were printed with the company name, to be stolen and remain "in-your-face" reminders of the company. Now the majority are taxed for the minority to be sponsored.
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      Mar 6 2012: Advertising can be a good thing if it helps fill a need. For example: I want some pizza but not sure who to order from. I open the newspaper and see a coupon for Buy 1 Get 1 Free. That is a heck of a deal and I jump on it because it was what I wanted and it helped me save during this transaction.

      Also if a new product comes out, like a new video game or gadget, advertising has often been the way I found about it's release and where to get it.

      So I think what your main point may be, (if I may put it into my own words), is that we need a new kind of advertising platform that works off of an ethical baseline and does not contribute to the cost of the goods being sold. Social Media is definitely the door to this imho.

      Good comment, thanks.
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    Mar 5 2012: Buyer beware is good advice. The ad company make and sells a ad to the product. If there is no corporate ethics then it is the buyers responsibility to select responsibly. It is the same for politics. If you believe all you hear you deserve what you get. We need to stop blaming everyone else for our bad decisions. However, if the product is defective and the company knowingly misrepresented it to the public and it is harmful. They need to be criminally liable.
    If it sounds to good to be true ... take heed. Best .... Bob
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      Mar 5 2012: This is not always very clear though and it still doesn't solve the problem of the extra noise being created. This statement is almost the same thing as saying that it is only a crime as long as someone reports it. Crime is crime, deception is deception. Is it wise to allow them to flourish?
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    Mar 5 2012: YES.
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    Mar 5 2012: Yes but how does one police it across the net? I use firefox, with the free addons available in the security section i generaly don't get the problem of popups,flashscripts or any advert on my browser.the best one to me is "Noscript".
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      Mar 5 2012: Tools to block the ads are nice but unfortunately this is a band aid solution that doesn't always work. In order to really fix the problems we face, we have to examine the root cause of that problem. This may not be easy but we can treat the symptoms along the way until we root out the cause.
  • Mar 10 2012: Relative to whom?

    If a victim can show that they have actual harm caused, then to them, they might sue all parties associated with the ad. It is not the concern of the victim who is responsible, only that all parties involved are named in the suit. Then it is up to the parties involved to battle over which party is responsible, or what the percentages are.

    In this context, the platform will always be reasonable in asking the advertiser to bear all the responsibility, because the platform did not make the ad, or choose to run the ad. The platform provided the tool for the advertiser to advertise. Irresponsible use of a tool is not the tool maker's fault. The tool works well for all responsible parties, so the irresponsible advertisers are 100% responsible. Not the platform.

    I don't know what the advertiser could argue. The tool made me do it?

    In the metaphorical example, the driver of your vehicle could see the passenger, and respond in, well, I don't know what way. Actually I don't buy that the driver is responsible for the passenger unless you can show collusion or agreement with the offense.. But I think all would agree that the car maker (tool maker) is not responsible. Ford GM and Toyota are never even brought into the courtroom.

    As a contractor, my client should come after me for damage caused by my sub-contractor. But that's OK, because I will go after my sub-contractor for the damage. It's relative to who you ask, but in the end, it's the advertiser's responsibility. Since we should predictably know this in advance, then we should answer the question with a resounding NO, and save a lot of time.
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    Mar 6 2012: Politicians use the largest most expensive ad platforms. So if we start with the biggest lies to the public, political promises, what is it that you plan to do as punishment. Defective material things are eay to solve. As was once said there are lies and there are damn lies. Where is the line. Even more important who are the moral judges. I do not see a clear line to take on this question. My first statement is still mu best opinion. It is each of us to decide. I may like what you hate and the other way around. The same cable service may be good in your area and l;ousy in mine. You may want to define the area of your question.
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      Mar 6 2012: This question does not speak to quality issues of a product or service, with the exception where someone is advertising something as new when it really isn't. I was specifically speaking to the kinds of ads that are intentionally deceptive, like the "(1) New Message" or the "Incoming Call, (Click here to Accept)", when it then takes you to some dumb survey site. These are very clear and obvious deceptions and I am not speaking about the product, but the use of deceptive advertising in order to generate a lead or conversion. To you or I these are quite obvious but to new or inexperienced users of the internet, they can easily be fooled.