Is it ethical to use fear appeals when advertising services to a vulnerable audience?
Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference
School of Business and Law
Advertising is a powerful promotional tool that marketers use to build awareness of an organisations product or service. The success of their communication efforts lie in being able to effectively and efficiently reach their target audience. This study examines the relationship between the marketers' use of fear as an appeal when targeting the elderly; a group often considered vulnerable, and whether the choice of an anxiety provoking message appeal is deemed to be an ethical marketing practice. Findings from quantitative research revealed that advertisements with even a mild fear appeal are considered unethical when the audience are of a vulnerable nature, and that a relationship exists between the perceived ethicality of an advertisement and the level of discomfort the audience feels when viewing it. Results of this study provide a better understanding of the effects of advertising tactics that involve a disadvantaged target audience who may be prone to manipulation.