The Advertising Wars: Ethics, Culture & Politics

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In the past few years, advertising has been increasingly present in the culture wars. Is the growing frequency in controversial advertisements a result of a lack of sensitivity on the part of advertisers, or over sensitivity in the public sphere?

Join us for an event where we will be discussing the ethics of advertising, its impact on our ideas and values, and what role, if any, government should have in regulating the industry.

13:00: From sexism to woke regulations: gender and advertising

The ‘Are you beach body ready?’ poster from Protein World in 2015 resurfaced a discussion about gender stereotypes in advertising. The controversy and the whole debate culminated in the industry’s regulator banning ‘sexist’ stereotypes in advertising. This follows the decision by London major Sadiq Khan to ban ads from London tube that ‘objectify’ women or engage in ‘body shaming’; a measure already present in other EU capitals, such as Stockholm. So, are gender stereotypes still prevalent in advertising, and if yes, do they “hold back people and society"? If so, how are such outdated views to be opposed? What does the new regulation banning such ads in the UK mean for the advertising industry in particular and freedom of speech in general?

Chloe Westley and Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos will unpack the topic.

15:00: Creative geniuses or manipulators of the soul? The ethics of advertising

Advertising has given us moments of creative brilliance, such as the now iconic Apple’s ‘1984’ Macintosh commercial. Yet, there seems to be a consensus that, unlike other forms of creative expression, the advertiser is subject to regulations and often outright censorship. Is this a reasonable concern? If so, what makes advertising special? Is it the aim to lure customers to buy a product? Its mass audience? And how are we to judge advertising for products that are bad for one’s health, or addictive, or target a vulnerable audience, such as children? Overall, is commercial advertising an ethical endeavour, or is it lying to us and creating false needs?

The topic will be discussed by Craig Biddle and Christopher Snowdon.


Chloe Westley is a Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance.

Dr Nikos Sotirakopouos is a lecturer at York St. John University, and an Academic Advisor for the Ayn Rand Centre.

Craig Biddle is the Editor of The Objective Standard magazine.

Christopher Snowdon is the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs.