Advertisers understand celebrity endorsements help sell the products and services of the businesses they represent. Like all aspects of a business, it is important to consider the ethical issues that could arise over the use of celebrity endorsements. In this particular application, ethics revolve around a firm’s responsibility to its customers. It is, therefore, when endorsements leave a dishonest impression or create conflicts of interests that celebrities and companies behave unethically.
Celebrities are generally held in such high regard that an endorsement can drive consumers to purchase a product that they might not otherwise buy. Where a celebrity does not use a product or offers a dishonest opinion, a clear ethical conflict exists. It is when a celebrity says something misleading that the endorsement is lacking in ethics. As such, both the celebrity and the beneficiary of the endorsement need to work together to make a more honest, accurate statement about the product or service.
In more serious scenarios, a conflict of interest can often arise over a celebrity endorsement. For example, Weatherproof dedicated an entire billboard in Times Square to President Obama, who happened to be wearing one of their jackets when visiting China, as a celebrity endorsement of its products with a billboard in the middle of time square. Where an endorsement conflicts with the celebrity’s image, values, professional affiliations, and other responsibilities or the celebrity does not make an actual endorsement, the ethical implications can be very serious. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the celebrity and the represented firm to recognize these issues.
The most serious conflicts occur when unsafe or ineffective products and services are promoted by celebrities. Whether discussing Dr. Phil’s endorsement of weight loss products based on body shape or the use of tobacco, celebrities can push consumers to purchase things that will not work or can cause harm. It is especially unethical when a celebrity endorsement is used to override expert opinion. When a celebrity interjects his or her non-expert opinion, it had been not undermine the opinion of more qualified individuals.
Certainly, most celebrity endorsements are probably ethical; however, they can be quite unethical when there is a lack of honesty or a conflict of interests. While the seriousness of these unethical behaviors can vary, the influences of these celebrity commentaries can cause serious harm to consumers, businesses, and the celebrity. It is, therefore, necessary for the firm and the celebrity to take into account all ethical consideration before publicly endorsing a product or service.