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Ethical advertising

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

With my brief experience in the advertising sector, I understood how fundamental communication is in the fashion world.

We all know that advertising is based on surprising and interesting, capturing attention before the consumer can change channels on TV or skip advertising on the network.

Yet these basic rules of advertising should not conflict with the principles of ethics and correctness of the advertising discourse.

Even a strong ethical message at the base of an advertising campaign can be its strength and on the contrary, an incorrect communication in terms of methods/contents would turn into an irreparable boomerang for the marketed product.

Thinking of advertising campaigns that have made the ethics of the message their strong point, The Unconventional Beauty campaign for Gucci Beauty comes to mind. The launch sees, for the first time ever, a model with Down syndrome as the face of a luxury brand to send an important message: diversity not as a limit but as an added value.

In my opinion, this advertising campaign demonstrates in an exemplary way that it is possible to combine audacity and ethics, thus managing to affect the consumer's attention for a noble reason.

On the contrary, there are many examples of commercials and photographs with an offensive message. Some advertising campaigns have conveyed a sexist and sometimes even racist message or have used inappropriate behaviors that can seriously compromise a brand's image.

Among the most striking examples we can mention the Sisley advertisement that shows two girls bent over a table emulating the action of snorting cocaine or the Dolce&Gabbana commercial that has even offended the sensibilities of a nation.

The famous Italian luxury fashion brand shows a Chinese model trying to eat a pizza with chopsticks. This provided a stereotypical representation of the Chinese people with the consequences for the brand to be accused of racism and thus being banned from China's eCommerce. This advertising choice in fact revealed the lack of knowledge of the sacredness of the rice culture in Chinese society offended by seeing chopsticks used as a toy. This communication incident put the brand in serious difficulty, which had to apologise publicly.

The Dolce&Gabbana case shows how even the most established Maison, with the best professionals at their disposal, can make very serious mistakes and be paradoxically undermined by their own advertising.

Advertising is therefore the classic double-edged sword: a precious tool for marketing a product but at the same time capable of destroying a brand if not used in the most appropriate and conscious way.

In this way I developed the conviction of the importance of accompanying companies on a path of ethical and responsible communication, capable of focusing on the value generated by respect and awareness.

McGregor, R. and McGregor, R. (2010). An ethical education. [online] An ethical education | LS:N Global. Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2020].

“Fashion Junkie” – Sisley (2007)

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