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MU to Host New Advertising Ethics Institute

Institute to research and educate advertising ethics in hopes of improving public image

July 1st, 2010

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— In a 2007 opinion poll, advertising practitioners came in third from last among professions in public perception of honesty and ethics, just ahead of lobbyists and car salesmen. In an effort to better understand why this perception exists and determine what the industry might do to improve that perception, the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute is joining with the American Advertising Federation (AAF) to launch an Institute for Advertising Ethics (IAE).

Wally Snyder, a former AAF executive director, will direct the effort as a distinguished visiting professor. The IAE’s first objective is to research advertising ethics. Margaret Duffy, an associate professor and faculty chair of Strategic Communications at the University of Missouri School of Journalism will head the Institute’s research team and serve on the advisory board.

“We want to understand the expectations of consumers in regard to advertising, from the standpoint of truthfulness, tastefulness, fairness, accuracy,” Duffy said. “We also want to uncover the public’s perceptions of advertising and marketing practices and procedures.”

Another important part of the newly founded institute will be education. Guided by research and input from practitioners and academics, the institute will open a dialog between advertisers and consumers on what each should expect. Duffy believes almost everyone involved wants to move forward ethically.

“Most people in corporations and agencies want to do the right thing, but they are often faced with challenging situations,” Duffy said. “It’s not easy, but it’s really important that we as professionals and educators get a handle on this for the next generation of advertisers.”

Duffy also thinks that further research into advertising ethics will prove even more useful in convincing corporations to conduct business ethically.

 “Preliminary research suggests that companies that demonstrate good records of corporate social responsibility and ethics tend to be more successful,” Duffy said. “It seems that doing the right thing as a corporation is not only possible, but it breeds success as well.”

The IAE will be supported by the American Advertising Federation and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI). The American Advertising Federation protects and promotes the well-being of advertising through a nationally coordinated grassroots network of advertisers, agencies, media companies, local advertising clubs and college chapters.

RJI engages media professionals, scholars and citizens in programs aimed at improving the practice and understanding of journalism. Allied with the Missouri School of Journalism, RJI collaborates with news and technology companies, professional associations, foundations and individuals to generate and test innovative models and technologies for journalism and advertising.