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Communication and Marketing Ethics


Seele P.

Docente titolare del corso

Schultz M. D.



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 – given the background of the communication sciences department – 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 will 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.

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.

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



100 % exam


Readings for an Overview

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:

Drumwright, M. (2014): Ethical Issues in communication Processes. University of Texas, Austin.

Seele P., Lock I. (2015) Instrumental and/or Deliberative? A Typology of CSR Communication Tools. Journal of Business Ethics: DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2282-9

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