Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




This is an exploratory, descriptive study of Omaha-area advertising professionals1 perceptions of ethical problems in the industry for a range of situations. Unlike much research in advertising to date, this thesis focuses not on the advertisement itself, but on the intangible arena of ad practitioners' values, morals and mores. The goal of this study is to expand upon the 1987 research by Hunt and Chonko, where the "ethical problems of advertising agency executives" (Hunt & Chonko, 1987, p. 16) were investigated, and to further examine the ethical beliefs expressed by advertising professionals. Moreover, this research undertakes to divulge the most difficult ethical problems facing Omaha advertising executives and to explore how advertising executives reach decisions of an ethical nature. This project examines both the ethical perceptions and the importance of ethics in the on-job practices of the advertising executive. Through a literature review, advertising is outlined, defined and characterized. The nature of ethics is also explored and the ethics and law of advertising are synthesized to provide a context for understanding advertising ethics in the Omaha area. The research tool for this study was a questionnaire distributed to 103 Omaha-area advertising agency executives. Response rate to the survey was 50.5 percent (52 participants). The questionnaire was organized into three categories: a Likert-type scale designed to measure ethical attitudes, a section for open-ended responses and an area for demographic data. Each of the categories was coded, tabled and evaluated. Mean responses were analyzed with specific demographics so that comparisons could be made on the basis of sex, age, educational level and whether or not respondents had studied ethics. The number-one ethical problem cited by Omaha-area advertising executives was "creating honest, nonmisleading, socially desirable advertisements," while the number two ethical problem was "treating clients fairly." This research suggests gender, age and education all play roles in the extent to which ad professionals perceive ethical problems exist, but as an exploratory study, cannot accurately postulate the reasons why this occurs. However, this research does examine areas where further study in advertising ethics might be useful.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts Communicatin University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1993, Jill K. Bruckner Lynch

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