Marketing Ethics: Kidology/Fate

“The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips” – Proverbs 16:23, The Holy Bible(ESV)

I can comfortably accept the idea of being unethical is doing something which is against the interest of others. I don’t remember who said it but this is the only one I can go with.

But then, what is being ethicalFirst, it doesn’t equate with one’s feelings of right or wrong. Second, religion can set high ethical standards but you can’t identify ethics with it. Otherwise, where would atheists go? Third, it is not doing whatever society accepts because the behavior standards of a society could be wrong in the dictionary of others. And also it is highly rare to form a consensus within the same society. Example, I would get multiple views on the ‘mercy killing’, ‘abortion’, ‘legal prostitution’ etc. Therefore, it would definitely conflict with the interest of others. Finally, it is certainly not something that conforms to the law.

One could say Ethics are standards which give answers to what is right or wrong. But it also depends upon the situation. You can’t form a common standard for all situations.

Suppose you want to feed a hungry mouth with meat. Can you justify your actions to a Vegan? Let say in this case that vegan is someone who burns his mid-night oil daily, working for the cause of saving chickens. Think about it; your way of doing things (even with good intentions) can really harm others so much that a new cause could be born out of it – “REMOVING SELF-CENTERED HYPOCRITES”. Like Mcdonald’s,  whose commitment to “make every customer smile” is doing something which is not acceptable to ‘Mercy for Animals’ NGO and the result isI’m hatin’ it” campaign.

Thing is, you won’t feel killing chicken is wrong because it is so common and is done everywhere just like killing a mosquito. (See full story in brief on Mcdonald’s cage-free eggs in the end).

By the way, how are you enticed by marketers to eat chicken nuggets! Here is an ad to lure you by KFC – The Whole Chicken & Nothing but the Chicken.

Needless to say, it received a lot of criticism. ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) received 480 complaints about the ad with issues ranging from “disrespectful”, “offensive” and “misleading” as it misrepresents the quality, age and living conditions of (KFC) chickens. Still, the ad will not face any investigations by the ad regulator because it didn’t break any of their rules. Like it didn’t use any bad language or showed any slaughterhouse; therefore perfectly okay as a TV commercial.

Now coming back to our ethics situation. What if I say that the same person is at death’s door and at the moment the only thing you have is a delectable piece of  ‘Mcdonald’s Chicken Nugget’? And it’s so hard for you to part ways with it but you still do it because you believe it’s the right thing to do. I think here you can justify your actions to your worst enemy because it’s the life or death matter. Secondly, no other alternative is available, and thirdly the chicken is already dead.


Now after reading all this jibber-jabber…….Oh My! you are still reading it! Respect! Because after having a similar discussion with friends, I could easily feel their agony. But it was wrong of me to ask non-vegetarian such things. Here are bits and pieces of it:-

Situation – Would you feed meat to a hungry dog just because you are into them and can’t see one suffering. Wouldn’t it clash with the cause of Vegans?

Arguments & counterarguments were:-

  • It contains more nutrients. Counterargument- But there are tons of data available that tells you that eating more animals and processed food is bad for health but a plant-based diet is more healthy. Consider the video from Dr. Mark Hyman (a neutral party and an expert) who says, “Fill your plate with at least 75 percent phytonutrient-rich, colorful, non-starchy veggies and use meat as a condiment”.
  • Food chain reasoning. Counterargument – Okay, but consider this! Surely you could entertain the thought of human overpopulation is the biggest threat to this world. Would you consider a solution given by movies like ‘Inferno’ and kill half of the world’s population and keep your chain proper. Shouldn’t one must find a better reasonable solution.
  • Eating plants and vegetables are also killing and doing wrong. But: – Most of our water goes to watering corn that is used to feed cows who ultimately got slaughtered so that you can eat them once they reach your nearest convenience store in pleasing plastic boxes. Don’t forget cows consume water too. It would be much more efficient to just eat vegetables which take much less water. Also, it seems that most animals don’t get slaughtered in the farms they are raised on. They are loaded into trucks for far-away cheap slaughterhouses and the amount of pollution, ozone layer depletion & blah blah blah are what that we can imagine easily.
  • Personal Satisfaction that you did something good. As long as you are unaware of the above facts then it will do the trick and if it gives you mental peace, then why not if that’s what you are aiming for. In the process, you will actually be helping another living creature.
  • I’ll do what I want to do. I accept my defeat here. And this is exactly what marketers bank on:-

Seriously though, please read the Chicken cage free case in brief (in the end) to know what I am talking about here, distraction marketing.


It makes me wonder, was Bill Hicks (Late American stand-up comedian, social critic and musician) right when he said,  “By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing…kill yourself. It’s just a little thought; I’m just trying to plant seeds………There’s no rationalization for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers……Seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good…….. It’s the only way to save your fucking soul. Kill yourself”?

But I am betting all on ‘Cause Marketing’. I do believe it’s the answer to all the evils of marketing. It’s better to show you rather than writing what it is. Artistic campaigns like below with unprecedented thoughts are the ones which bring me back again and again for more. Instead of a common topic of gender equality, this film invites users to see a gender divide. Jake Dypka (London based Commercials and content director) along with Hollie McNish did it by splitting the screen into two – one depicting pink (female) experiences and the other one is of male’s (blue). You can see how two babies grow alongside each other are treated differently because of their genitalia? In other words this video questions – why can’t a boy play with barbie and a girl ride Harley Davidson.

This work (“Open Your Eyes”) bagged ‘Cannes Lions 2016, Saatchi and Saatchi New Directors Showcase’ award.

You can read my previous article too, “USING A SOCIAL CAUSE: PROFIT OR PROFITEERING” to get a glimpse of how a cause should be projected; exemplified through a good and a bad marketing campaign.


Continuing Mcdonald’s Chicken Case

Earlier sufferings of Cats and Dogs seemed to be a more stressing matter for animal groups than poultry. But in the past decade, facts changed the perception. An activist Paul Shapiro (founder of ‘Compassion over killing’) noted that 99% of all animal killings in the US happened in the food industry. Every year 29 million cattle, 115 million hogs were killed for meat as compared to 8.8 Billion chickens. Other than this U.S. federal law governing humane slaughter (first passed in 1958) does not apply to poultry. In 2004 CEO of the Humane Society of US invited Mr.Shapiro to this new campaign. Many other animal welfare groups started realizing the issue because of the sheer amount of numbers and hence cause gain supporters especially millennials. As a result, Mcdonald’s decided to go for cage-free eggs. On August 18, 2016, Fortune magazine published the turnaround story “Inside Mcdonald’s Bold Decision To Go Cage Free”. It is a ten-year plan which works on the idea that chickens won’t be confined to cages and will be having a more natural life. After that, cage-free eggs became the buzzword and it seems the real cause i.e. betterment for chickens lost ground. It’s like animal welfare groups were fighting a battle which was set to be doomed. Below 5-minute video by Ashley Romano (Founder of BigGirlFitGirl) explains why cage-free eggs don’t make any difference.

Mcdonald’s ad in 2016 (Chicken Nuggets) – An attempt to change the focus from whats in them or how it is made to “it is a part something invaluable”. It’s a part of their happy moments. They want to show that their customers are loyal and trust Mcdonald’s. A happy childhood is a hoax without video games, bicycles, a pet and the most important part, a loving father who introduces his daughter to…WAIT FOR IT!!!!!! Mcdonald’s Chicken Nuggets.

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