Ethics Blog 3-3

I chose to review the case of Ant-Man, a PG-13 movie, being advertised during children’s programming, Spongebob Squarepants (CARU, 2015).

In this case, “advertising for ‘Ant-Man’ aired during the program ‘SpongeBob Squarepants'” despite receiving a rating of PG-13 for “intense sequences of science fiction action violence” (CARU, 2015). Through an agreement with the Motion Picture Association of America, “if CARU finds an advertisement for a film rated PG-13, R or NC-17 in any medium primarily directed to children under 12, CARU will refer the matter to the MPAA Advertising Administration” (CARU, 2015). The MPAA upheld the placement of the ad:

In the case of Ant-Man, which is a sci-fi action/adventure motion picture directed to younger audiences, placed on “Spongebob Squarepants,” for which the demographic information demonstrates a relatively older-skewing audience, and taking into consideration the TV ads themselves, none of which contained strong depictions of violence, the Advertising Administration determined that the placement was appropriate for the program on which it aired (CARU, 2015).

Advertising professionals face unique ethical challenges, as they are “contractually obligated to be an advocate of the client, working to advance the client’s ends,” although the authors of Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning note that “as media professionals we are variously obligated.” Advertisers must decide daily how to balance their ethical loyalties to both their clients and their audience.

These decisions and their outcomes greatly affect the professional culture of advertising, whose elements are discussed on p. 178-79 of Media Ethics. They shed light on what the culture truly values — creativity? effectiveness? ethical advertising? They also reveal how those professionals will go about their work. In the case of Ant-Man, it seems the advertisers valued the ad’s outcome more than worrying that children would be watching an ad for a movie that may be inappropriate for them to see — so they ran the ad during a 5 p.m. children’s program.

These challenges also reveal how advertisers think about themselves — CARU is a self-regulating unit, so there is clearly some ethical consideration within the business itself. They shape and reveal how others think about the advertisers, as audiences react to an ad’s content, placement and overall message and often draw judgments about the advertising industry.

These components of the professional culture of advertising reveal why it’s so important to think fully through ethical decisions. As the authors state in Media Ethics, “our professional response to these perceptions — a shrug of the shoulders, a thoughtful editorial, or a column in Advertising Age — reveals quite a lot about our industry’s values” (Media Ethics, 2012).


CARU Refers Broadcast Advertising for PG-13-Rated ‘Ant-Man’ to MPAA for Further Review. (2015, September 10). Retrieved from

Christians, C. (2012). Media ethics: cases and moral reasoning (9th ed.). Pearson.