Enabled and constrained : culture, ethics and structuration in an advertising agency
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Understanding the complexity of advertising ethics mandates an organizational approach to empirical research. Organizational culture affords attention to not only the advertising practitioner's perspectives of ethics, but also to the organizational context in that ethical decision-making takes place. This ethnography examines the relationship between organizational culture and advertising ethics at an advertising agency from the theoretical perspective of Giddens' structuration. Forty-five days of fieldwork and one-on-one interviews with 45 agency practitioners examined shared perceptions and divided views of organizational values, goals, challenges, and aspects of leadership; as well as perceptions of ethical problems in advertising. Members' ethical perceptions fell along a continuum from moral myopia to acute ethical awareness. Organizational values enabling ethical awareness and decision-making include integrity and respect for others. Also, the hands-on work characteristic of leaders sets an ethical example for others. A founder of the agency suggested ethics was not an intention for starting the agency. Furthermore, the agency does not espouse explicit ethical values or code. Therefore, the perceptions categorizing moral myopia suggest ways in which ethical awareness is simultaneously constrained. The concept of amorality is presented as the organizational perspective for understanding, and as a constraint upon, ethical intentions for an agency.