Transparency for Sponsored Content : Analysing Codes of Ethics in Public Relations, Marketing, Advertising and Journalism

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Ikonen, Pasi ; Luoma-aho, Vilma ; Bowen, Shannon A. (2017)
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject: sponsorointi | läpinäkyvyys | eettisyys | suhdetoiminta | markkinointi | journalismi | sponsored content | transparency | codes of ethics | public relations | marketing | advertising | journalism

As sponsored content is gaining ground globally, the boundaries between strategic communication, advertising and journalism are blurring. As sponsored content becomes more common, it raises novel ethical concerns that no industry alone can answer, such as How much disclosure is needed for transparency? Self-regulation via codes of ethics has been suggested as a remedy to meet the rising transparency expectations, and this article analysed 40 codes of ethics in the fields of communication, advertising, and journalism (United States and Finland) related to sponsored content. The results indicate that there remains excessive variation within the codes of ethics of how transparency of sponsored content is addressed. According to our analysis, most of the codes deal with transparency and the separation between commercial and editorial content only vaguely, and only eight of the total 40 guidelines take sponsored content into account. Therefore, we believe that the strategic benefit of sponsored content is threatened as long as no joint codes of ethics exist for sponsored content. To the degree that sponsored content is practiced across professions, we call for a joint code of ethics for sponsored content transparency, as the current codes of ethics fail to answer this emerging need. peerReviewed
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