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Ethics and Effectiveness with fear appeal in public service announcements

Ethics vs. Effectiveness With Fear Appeal in Public Service Announcements by Jeff Brotherton Communication 357 Dr. Keri Bodensteiner April 23, 2001 Recently, within modern advertising, the use of emotional appeal has been an issue of growing interest in both the advertising industry as well as the consumer public. Questions have arisen regarding the reason for its use and its ethical boundaries. Playing on the emotions of the general consumer public through advertising is considered by many to be very unethical. Furthermore, the advertising industry has started a trend that involves playing on the emotions of the consumer, specifically the emotion of fear. Obviously, in an effort to try and sell a certain product, it would have to be considered at least somewhat unethical to use consumer emotion as a means to sell that product. However, there is another form of advertising that has noticed the effects of emotional appeal, and now it too has followed suit. This other branch is known as the “Public Service Announcement.” Public Service Announcements, or PSAs are not for profit messages for the benefit of the gene! ral public. The purpose of individual PSAs can range from an anti-drug campaign to advising women to get mammograms to prevent further growth of breast cancer. In one specific case, a radio PSA reminds the general public to wear their seat belts through obvious use of fear appeal. It has been established that use of emotional appeal in advertising in order that a company may sell a product is viewed as unethical. However, should the use of emotional appeal in Public Service Announcements be viewed as unethical when the PSA was created to help save lives? Through research surrounding the matter, I plan to discuss the ethical issues of emotional appeal in PSAs compared to its effectiveness. Furthermore, I will present my own opinion and evidence as to why, though unethical, ...

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