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Communication and Marketing Ethics


Seele P.

Course director

Conti L. G.



The course starts with a very brief introduction into ethics, either refreshing basic knowledge for those who already had ethics in school or on BA level or familiarizing those with the philosophic sub-discipline of ethics, who have not yet encountered academic reasoning about normative questions. Equipped with a basic understanding of the distinction between ‘moral’ and ‘ethics’, participants get to know the most important ethical approaches: Virtue Ethics, Deontology, Utilitarianism and Discourse Ethics.

In a next step on a more general level ethical issues in the communication process are discussed such as freedom of expression, conflict of interest, gatekeeping. On a more communication theoretical level communication ethics is introduced on the levels of a. agents, b. message, c. medium, and d. receivers and situations.

Once equipped with the theoretical foundations the course in the second part applies ethics theory on specific (corporate) communication and marketing contexts: We discuss journalism ethics in theory and practice, ethical dimensions of new technology, ethical issues in public relations and marketing, advertising ethics, corporate social responsibility communication and greenwashing and finally on a more general level media violence discussing the responsibility for protecting minors and other vulnerable persons/consumers.

The third part of the course relates to new and emergent topics and challenges regarding communication and marketing ethics: Among the most recent examples are ethical views on dynamic pricing, predictive algorithms or communication of product responsibility discussing the role of certificates/labels.


By the end of the Communication and Marketing Ethics course, students will be able to:

  • Differentiate between the major schools of ethics
  • Distinguish between ‘moral’ and ‘ethics’
  • Define key concepts of communication ethics and discuss central ethical issues in the communication process.
  • Apply ethical theories and theoretical foundations to communication and marketing ethics contexts
  • Describe and discuss current challenges in communication and marketing ethics

Teaching mode

In presence

Learning methods

The course builds on ethical theory and case studies and classroom debates. Next to the topical adoption of the course also individual, organizational and societal-macro implications are discussed.

Examination information

100 % exam

Required material 
Suggested Readings:

  • Cheney, G.; May, S; Munshi, D. (2011): The Handbook of Communication Ethics. Routledge.
  • McKinley, M. (2011): Ethics in Marketing and Communications: Towards a Global Perspective. Palgrave.
  • Eagle, L. (2015): Marketing Ethics & Society. Sage.

Further Readings:

  • Dahl and Eagle: Marketing to Young and Vulnerable Consumer Groups. In: Marketing Ethics and Society: Eagle and Dahl 2015, 141-158.
  • Drumwright, M. (2014): Ethical Issues in communication Processes. University of Texas, Austin.
  • Eagle, Dahl, Low: Criticism of Marketing. In: Marketing Ethics and Society: Eagle and Dahl 2015, 29-54.
  • Eagle, Desrochers, Dahl. Mahony and Low: Promotion of Harmful Products. In: Marketing Ethics and Society: Eagle and Dahl 2015, 159-188.
  • Hyde, M. (2011): Ethics, Rhetoric, and Discourse. HB of ComE. 31-45.
  • L’Etang, J. (2011): Ethical Issues of Public Relations and Marketing. HB of ComE. 221-241.