Crossing the Line in Advertising

Facebook has a way of shocking its users with creepy advertisements. Whether it’s a t-shirt with your name on it, a dress you considered ordering that morning, or a textbook you looked up the previous day, the ad is sure to be invasive. This doesn’t bother me. In fact, through discussions with my friends about targeted ads, they don’t seem to bother many people.

But an advertisement I saw recently on Facebook struck me as too invasive.

Imagine that you sign on to Facebook and see a photo of two girls with text overlapping it that says “I’m hooking up with my sorority sister.” Now imagine that the caption for the ad says “The UNC group on Whisper is crazy af.” NOW imagine that the picture is kind of familiar… a girl on the dance team and a girl on the cheer team… and they are holding up a sorority hand sign.

This picture was of two girls who are students at UNC, and I had seen it before because I have mutual friends with the girls in the picture. I spoke to one of my friends on the cheer team, and she texted one of the girls in the picture. Not surprisingly, the girl had no idea her picture was being used on an advertisement that said “I’m hooking up with my sorority sister.”

I’m not sure about the legalities of using someone else’s photo for an ad. I imagine the photo was not copyrighted, or the person who took the photo has no idea that the photo is being used. What I do know is that this crosses all kinds of ethical lines. A company shouldn’t use real photos for an advertisement, especially when they didn’t pay or inform the people in the photos the photo conveys a derogatory message about the people in the photo. This ad didn’t make me want to download the application being advertised, and it didn’t spark my interest about it either.

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