Handbook on Ethics and Marketing
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Handbook on Ethics and Marketing

Edited by Alexander Nill

Exploring both the theoretical and the applied aspects of the role ethics plays in marketing, this Handbook analyzes key issues in order to advance our understanding and provide an overview of the state of the art in this vital field.
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Chapter 17: Marketing ethics in context: the promotion of unhealthy foods and beverages to children

Michaela Jackson, Paul Harrison, Boyd Swinburn and Mark Lawrence


Marketing ethics has been described as an inherently relative concept whereby ethical problems and consequences result from interactions between individuals, but are also shaped by the context in which they occur (Chonko and Hunt 1985; Singhapakdi et al. 1996). In making ethical decisions, marketers are influenced by a complex interplay of factors in the broader cultural, economic and organizational environments (Singhapakdi et al. 1996). Within this field, issues arise from organizations’ marketing activities and their consequences (Chonko and Hunt 1985), and the way marketing decisions are shaped by moral standards (Murphy et al. 2005). During the past two decades the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, that is, energy-dense, nutrient-poor products such as confectionery and sugar-sweetened beverages, to children and adolescents has been a source of debate among marketers (‘Marketers regroup on junk food marketing’ 2006; Witkowski 2007; Chandon and Wansink 2010), the food and beverage industry (Australian Food and Grocery Council 2010; Cooper 2010; Jolly 2011) and public health professionals (Lobstein and Dibb 2005; Hastings et al. 2006; McGinnis et al. 2006; Palmer and Carpenter 2006; Matthews 2008; Harris et al. 2009c; Mehta et al. 2010). As public health professionals have argued, it is not only the promotional method that is in question but the products being marketed, of which only minimal consumption is recommended (Harris et al. 2009b). Other factors, such as to whom they are being marketed, by whom and for what purpose, add further complexity to this issue.

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