Yet Another Ethical Dilemma

I really need to get to the bottom of this ethical marketing thing, because it keeps coming up in my internship. I have a problem. Let’s start with the story, then move on to the problem, and then I’ll try to categorize it with other things I’ve done before, and then I’ll decide what to do.

Okay. So. I’m interning at a marketing company, and I’m learning how to market. So this means that we make facebook posts, instagram stories, new websites, etc. This specific problem that has popped up has happened twice, so I think that I’ll just extract out the commonalities and tell you that story instead. Okay.

It starts off with my coworkers creating and advertising an event on facebook. To make it look good, authoritative, and reputable, the event page should garner multiple “interested” and “going” clicks. The more they have, the better the event looks. How do we get these clicks? What one does is indicate that he’s going (even if he’s not), asks his coworkers, friends, and coworkers’ friends to click on it as well, so that it looks like people are interested. How does the event advertiser do this? They ask others: hey, can you say you’re going to this event? Hey, can you ask your friends to indicate that they’re going to this event?

So in this story, I’m one of the people who was asked to simply press “attending” regarding the event. But I didn’t feel like that was right. My solution so far has been to push the problem away: say that I have no friends who are interested, or that I can’t think of anyone, or avoid offering up an answer. Even though this truthful, it’s not the whole truth. I need to say more, and this is because the problem keeps coming up over and over again. Something about avoiding answering properly makes me feel like I’m doing something that goes against my conscience. It makes me feel bad. I feel it in my solar plexus, and it kinda feels like I may throw up in 2 minutes. So, what is it that went wrong here?

I think the best way to figure that out is to contrast the above story with a heroic and comedic (as in comedy v. tragedy) story. A story with a happy ending. Because the one above is not a happy ending. The one immediately below is. It’s when I brought over Lindsay Shepherd to UBCO.

So, there’s an event that I’m creating that I’m super super super pumped about. And I think that others can, are, or should be pumped about this event too! It’s a bloody big deal, and I want others to come see! There’s something going on here that deserves and calls for attention, and it’s spectacularly engaging, and it speaks to multiple levels of a person. Now, how do I advertise it? Well, I do what anyone would: print posters, write up blogs, make a facebook event page. How do I get people to like it? I ask all of my friends to come! In fact, I basically beg them. But before I start begging, I try to persuade them by speaking about how important the event is to the cultural milieu in which we live. If they say that they’re not interested, then I stop. If they’re close friends of mine, I ask them to come just for me, because I need their moral support. So then, the event comes, and I’m overjoyed because it turns out that the room is overflowing not with all of my friends, but with people I don’t know. There are a few of my friends, and they are proud of my accomplishment, even if it wasn’t interesting. I go home brimming with pride and excitement for this wonderful event that happened just as I had liked it to happen.

Okay. So. Let’s compare and contrast.

a.   The first difference I notice is that in the +story, I am the one who’s creating the event. In the -story, my coworker is creating the event on facebook.

b. I’m super excited about the +story’s event. It’s something I believe in, and I’m motivated to work.

c. in the +story, I have reasons for why I’m marketing it, albeit underdeveloped: others can, are, or should be pumped about this event too, just as I am. Something will happen at this event that deserves attention because it’s spectacularly engaging, and it speaks to multiple levels of a person. In the -story, I don’t have personal reasons for marketing what I do. It isn’t a good in itself. Your intent is to get the news out to as many people as possible for both, or so I thought.

d. in the -story, the way you advertise it is by asking your friends to make it look good by clicking the “going” and “interested” button. Your intent is to make it look good, authoritative, and reputable. In the +story, the way you advertise is by printing posters, writing up blogs, making a facebook event page. When I want the event to say that people are going, I try to persuade those around me, in fact everyone around me, to go to the event. If they say no, that’s that. If they say yes, I remind them incessantly when it is, because I usually forget that they said yes haha. It’s then that I tell them to go on facebook. For the general public and the unknown market that I’m marketing to, I put my message out there, but I don’t force it down their throats: put up a poster in every building everywhere, then put up a facebook ad and share it on the school group every 3 months, and continue this up till the last few minutes. It’s pretty aggressive, but it doesn’t feel aggressive in a bad way. So with the -story, I ask my friends. With the + story, I ask my friends too. But my motivation and method are different. For motivation, I’m doing it in the -story because someone asked me to. In the +story, I’m doing it because I want others to come to the event, to talk about it, to think about it, to reflect on it, everything like that! The method is different as well. I tell my friends about it only because we’re friends, and it’s an event I’m excited about, and so I think that they should either come for moral support because this is an event that I am setting up, or they should come because they would actually find it interesting!

So here’s what I think I should do. First, hit the problem bluntly: “No, no, no. I’m not going to click the “going” button, nor am I going to invite any of my friends.”

Then, I’m going to give my reasons, like any reasonable person would.

For why I’m not going to click the “going” button, it’s because I’m not going, and clicking the going button when I’m not going is a lie, and I don’t lie, so I either go, or I don’t click the going button. If I so much as feel like I’m not going to go, then I’m not going to click the going button.

Okay, but what if there’s a possibility that I am going? I still won’t click it right away. Here’s why. If you’re the person asking me to click that button, it’s because you want the page to look good, not because you’re interested in whether or not I’m going.

If you were interested in whether or not I was going, you would ask me exactly that: “are you going”, and then you should ask “did you like the facebook page”, and I would say “why?” and you would say “because it’ll remind you of when it is.”

But I think it can break down after the “are you going”, the motives stand naked right after the next question. If the question after are you going is “can you like the facebook page please”, I should ask why, and then you would say so that it looks better (is this a false assumption?), or more generally, because it helps the prospects of the advertisement.

But then, here you reveal that the only reason you care about whether or not I’m going is because it helps the ad; not because it makes me better off. So even then, the answer’s still an automatic no. So the only motive I think is acceptable for why I should like any event page is because “I understand that the event will be useful, and that therefore I want to go. Anything else is probably just a manipulation.” For a working hypothesis, I’d say this is sufficient.

But even then; let’s say that I know for sure that I’m going, and you ask me if I’m going, and I say yes, and you ask me if I can click the go button. The answer to that should be no, because you asked me to, and that’s because you’re trying to manipulate me to act in a way I would not have acted in just to sate your sole immediate benefit.

To sum up the argument, nobody asks me for anything that I don’t want, that I feel like they’re manipulating out of me, or more generally using me for, and it’s because being used is antithetical to my chosen way of life.





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