Advertisers Urged to Respect Dignity of Person

Plea by President of Pontifical Council for Social Communications

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, OCT. 29, 2003 ( Advertising can contribute to economic, social and even moral progress, but it’s crucial that it also respect the dignity of the human person, says a Vatican official.

Addressing the World Federation of Advertisers amid its 50th anniversary celebrations Tuesday, Archbishop John Foley stressed the need for advertising to pursue the common good.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in a talk entitled «A Good Name is the Best Advertisement,» said that he wanted to underscore several principles and concerns, the Vatican Information Service reported.

The first is that «being is better than having.» Our God-given dignity depends on the former, not the latter, Archbishop Foley stressed.

He exhorted the 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.»

«A second principle is: Each person must be treated with respect,» the archbishop continued. «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 is the common good,» he added. «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, advertising profoundly affects the values and the morals in society — and not just people’s buying habits,» the archbishop concluded. «I hope you realize your own power — and that you continue to use it responsibly, as so many of you do.»

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