Addressing the World Federation of Advertisers on the occasion of the federation's 50th anniversary, Archbishop John Foley, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, reminded advertisers that the drive to sell products must not prevail over human dignity.
During his talk entitled, "A Good Name is the Best Advertisement," the Philadelphia-born Archbishop noted the positive contributions that advertisers make to economic, social and even moral progress, but nonetheless underscored “several principles and concerns.”
The first, he said, is “Being is better than having,” saying our God-given dignity depends on the former, not the latter. He exhorted advertisers “not to put poor people down, even subconsciously. Emphasize quality, emphasize efficiency, emphasize even better grooming and cleanliness and good appearance - but please do not suggest that a possession is going to make one person better than another person.”
“A second principle,” Archbishop Foley added, “is: Each person must be treated with respect. We resent it as employees if we are treated as factors of production rather than as persons; we can resent it in advertising if individuals depicted are portrayed as objects rather than as persons and, indeed, if we -- the audience of consumers – are treated as so many numbers to be reached instead of as persons to whom an important message is to be communicated.”
“A third principle of ethics in communications,” he remarked, “is the common good. A growing concern in democratic societies is the ethical aspect of political campaigning” when, for example, “the costs of advertising limit political competition to wealthy candidates or groups,” thus obstructing the democratic process.
“As you know,” concluded Archbishop Foley, “advertising profoundly affects the values and the morals in society - and not just people's buying habits. I hope you realize your own power - and that you continue to use it responsibly, as so many of you do.”