The Effects Of Unethical Practices In Advertising: (A Case Study Of Vitafoam In Nigeria)

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Advertising as a concept, can be defined as a form of communication through the media about product, services, ideas, personalities or organizations, paid for by an identified sponsor writer Alide in Okunna (2002: 99).

Bovee and Arens (1985) gave a more widely accepted definition of advertising as the non-personal communication of information, usually paid for any usually persuasive in nature about products (goods and services) or ideas by an identified sponsor through various media. It is an exciting, dynamic, and challenging enterprise. Its often a persuasive communication in that it tries to persuade the reader, the listener or the viewer to take to the sponsor’s own point of view and also to take some appropriate action. It is not personal or face to face communication, rather it is directed to a group of people.

Advertising is also controlled, identifiable information and persuasion by means of mass communication media. Defined by Wrignt and Zeight (1982:10).

Gillran Dyer says that in its simplest sense, the word “advertising” means drawing attention to something or notifying or informing somebody of something.

According to the understanding of Advertising practitioners council of Nigeria (APCON) “advertising is a form of communication through the media about products, services or ideas, paid for by an identified sponsor”.

The terms advertising was coined from the Latin word “advertere” which mean literally means to draw attention. This is when you are getting the evidence mind in a product, notifying or informing somebody/people of something. There is no doubt that advertising has brought prosperity to different countries of the world through different means. It has helped in speeding up the introduction of new inventions and has most importantly widened markets for mass-produced goods and services. Consumers of industrial goods and service and all over the world today enjoy the choice of a wide variety of such goods and services.

Advertising has also been of immense benefit humanity and has contributed in no small measure rapid industrialization and expansion processes all over the world. Infact, advertising has contributed in making the world a better place to live in.

Tracing the history of advertising however, it is evident that its practice is as old as man. Weppner (1979) in Okunna (2002: 85) reveals that advertising seems is be part of human nature evidenced since ancient times.

Groom in his own view stated that “advertising” was first century AD and has been employed ever since in one form or another”. It has no specific date, any way, but Groom further maintains it as an instrument of marketing in the past 4000 B.C.E. Highlighting its existence in a Nigeria advertising has been part of commercial activities even before the arrival of whitemen remarks Abayomi in Okunna (2002: 86) Quoting Ogbodo (1990), Abayomi in Okunna pointed out the common practices in our locality like town criers do, hawking and display of available waves were the earliest method of advertising in Nigeria. This is still obtainable in the free-market these days as sellers cry above their voices to draw the attention of buyers to their waves.

The introduction of modern advertising in Nigeria was made possible in 1859 by a newspaper called “Iwe Irohin”. It was owned by an English Reverend gentleman known as Henry Townsend. It was an eight page newspaper with four pages English version and four pages “Yoruba” version. This newspaper attracted a lot of readership, this creating space for advertisement on births, weddings and obituaries, vacances for houseboys and maids, church activities, ship schedules and other social events.

Abayomi in Okunna (2002: 86) records that other newspaper such as the logos observer, the Eagle, the Lagos critic and others joined the music. The business of advertising enjoyed a great boast in the 1920s as notable companies such as Releigh Bicycle, PZ, lever Brothers, Cadbury, Ovaltine and others sprang up to patronize the services of West African Publicity (WAP) who provided advertising services like radio and television there was a considerable advancement in Radio/TV advertisement for over four decades. This began with the establishment of Western Nigeria Broadcasting Services (WNBS) and Western Nigeria Television (WNTN) by the defunct Western Religion, Okunna.

At this point, it is pertinent to note that the practice of advertising in Nigeria has been legalized. The legalized was masterminded by APCON which was established by Decree 55 of 1988 amended by Decree 93 of 1992.

The APCON, as produced by the code of advertising practice is charged with the responsibility of among other things.

a).    Determining who are advertisers

b).    Conducting examinations in the profession and,

c).    Regulating and controlling advertising in all this aspects and ramifications.

The strict adherence to the provisions of this, code has really made advertising an interest oriented, fascinating and fantastic professions.

In recent years, the practice of advertising no longer enjoy its good essence. Following the introduction of fraudulent and unethical practice in the business of advertising the profession is fast loosing credibility and interest.

The code of Advertising practice catalogued the essence of good advertising as outlined below. The codes provides that all advertisement in Nigeria should;

a).    Be legal, decent, honest, truthful and respectful of Nigeria’s culture.

b).    Be prepared with a high sense of social responsibility and should not show disregard for the interest of consumers and the wider Nigeria society.

c).    Conform to the principles of fair competition generally accepted in business and fair comment expected in human communication.

d).    Enhance public confidence in advertising.

Unfortunately advertisers have chosen the unethical means of practicing this profession, neglected the good sense of advertising which revolves around social responsibility.

In his words, Osunbiyi (1999:27) “advertising on the whole can be rumours, ie it can be deceptive and misleading. It can manipulate the “vulnerable psyche”.Unethical Practices

No doubt, advertising can be ruinous when some illegal advertisers make claims that are untruce about a product of services.

As the consumers of such product testifies that the claims surrounding the product are not time, he automatically stops patronage.Unethical Practices

Osunbiyi (1999:31) reiterates that deception perhaps, is the worse criticism of advertising in that it is assumed that information given is just to deceive the public. Categorically, we can view the effect of unethical practice of advertising from many angels.Unethical Practices

Fort the most part, same advertisement are deception oriented for instance, most naturalistic hospital, both registered and unregistered, go on air or magazine pages to advertise their products. They make false claims that they cure a lot of ailments, when in actual sense, they may only cure, say bellyache. People rush to by the drug or concoction and eventually worsen their earlier situation. Close examples are two naturalistic hospitals, 8 Jemeni Street and Dr. J.J. Ogadinma Naturalistic Hospital along Ogaja Road, Abakaliki.Unethical Practices

A more chronic effects of unethical practice of advertising is ‘passing off’,

Passing off is a situation where a producer of a given product imitates, in a very close identify, the name, colour graphic design, size and shape of a product of that with a mark of quality, in order to enjoy plenty safes under the umbrella of the original product.Unethical Practices

It is a also a form of fraud in which a company tries to sell its own product by deceiving buyers into thinking it is another product.Unethical Practices

It is also making some false representation likely to induce a person to believe that the goods or service are those of another. Passing off-to misrepresent that one’s business is that of, or connected with another, in a way likely to cause damage. The implication of this ugly act is that is attracts loss of loyalty and patronage to the ‘main’ product. Hence, it affects the economic viability of such company and their product.Unethical Practices

This is obtainable in almost all products in the market such ones are TURA medicated soap which has another imitation product called TULA. Most people, especially the less lettered, who had been enlightened about tura soap quickly buy the ‘TULA’ with the mind frame that is the same thing as the original one.

A product like Philip electric iron is not exempted in the passing off. It has imitators like Philip and Dhilip in radio. Other electronic gadgets like SONY products are plagued by such ones like sunny, sonic, sony-multi, sony prestige etc. In BYG products we now have GYC, BIC, VIC, BYG, all sounding almost the same, with the same design not qualitative, thus attracting bad name to the product. Talk of Bournvita food drink, Bomvita, Bovita, Bonveta etc have filled the market, making it difficult for customers to identify the real one.

In fact, the list is in exhaustible. Over the years, vitafoam has been noted as a long lasting, soft and qualify mattress. It has been enjoying good name, hence its sustain ability in the market vitafoam is not left out in the “Passing off problem and its effects.Unethical Practices

In this work, the researcher has chosen VITAFOAM product of VITAFOAM NIGERIA PLC, Aba, for a case study.


The foam company known as vitafoam Nigeria Plc today is an offshoot of Vita international limited, an internationally renowned products of all kinds of quality mattresses, cushions, pillows and upholstery sheetings.

Vitafoam is less tossing and turning by evenly distributing the body weight and it create better blood circulation. Vitafoam Nigeria Plc was incorporated in Nigeria as a private company on 4th August, 1962.

In 1963, the company opened its first factory at Ikeja, Lagos State for the production of latex form mattresses. The installation of its first urethane foam production plant in the Ikeja premises in 1966 paved way for the production of carpet underlay, fibre pillows, rigid urethane insulating materials and Vitabond Adhesive.Unethical Practices

Beside the Ikeja factory which is vitafoam Nigeria became the first foam manufacturing company in Nigeria to win the much converted international quality award NIS ISO 9002 certificate for the manufacture and sale of flexible and rigid poly urethane foam, fibre pillows and adhesive.

Thus emphasizes their quality policy which states thus: Our policy at vitafoam Nigeria Plc is to continually provide goods and services and conform to international standard and surpass customers expectations at a price that represents value.Unethical Practices

Vitafoam battles with identical mattresses with such brand names as vitafoam, vitafoam, vitafoam, mitafoam, mitafoam, vitafosfoam, vitalinefoam etc.Unethical Practices

Worthy of note is that these imitators have contributed a lot to deceiving vitafoam customers to make wrong choices, thereby losing their loyalty to the company. As a parts of the provisions of APCON Code of Advertising Practice under medical products and treatments (4.7:12) “no advertisement should claim that the product, medicine or treatment advertised will promote sexual virility or be effective in treating sexual weakness, or habits associated with sexual excess or indulgence, or any ailment, illness or disease associated with these habits”. Even the pharmaceutical companies, these days make claims that a given drug can cure a member of diseases. But all are based on false claims.Unethical Practices


In the bid to maximize profit in the prevalent get rich-quick syndrome of some fraudulent entrepreneurs, some indulge in ill-practice of advertising. These unethical practice thus, endangers the well-being of the society and the Nigeria culture in particular. Absolute social responsibility to the customers of advertised goods and service is not ensured due to the fact that buyers are often misted by chronic imitators. As a result of a lot of people haven fallen victim of the unethical practice of advertising known as passing off.

This has been a serious problem facing the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON). The researcher in this, study, attempts to find in solution of these problems aforementioned and to particularly evaluate its effects to vitafoam, as a product and measures the company has put in place to correct the problem.


This research work aims at bringing to limelight why illegal practice of advertising is on the increase. That is evaluating why some advertisers neglect the laid down ethics of advertising to pass through the “backdoor” it would also pin-point the set of advertisers who practice advertising unethically.

Most importantly, it would look into the extent of effects unethical practice of advertising has caused. This study would also more whether APCON has devised other strict measures to penalize illegal practitioners.Unethical Practices


It is the belief of the researcher that this study would serve as immense useful purpose to its potential and prospective users. Students, scholars, consumers of goods and services policy makers, advertisers, advertising agencies and advertising researchers would stand to gain a lot from the facts contained in this work. This study upholds the high standard of an ideal advertising practice and therefore benefits the advertisers and feaming consumers of advertised goods and services. It serves as an eye opener to a good sense of advertising because the interest of the consumers is paramount.Unethical Practices

After close study of this research work, the evil effects of unethical practice of advertising will be drastically reduced, if not bought to an end.


To provide a framework for eliciting solution to the research problems, it is necessary that some research questions be formulated.

A number of research questions are hereby given below for this reason.

1.     Why do some advertisers neglect the ethics of advertising practice?

2.     What effects have unethical practice of advertising caused?

3.     Has APCON stipulated any measures to curb illegal advertising?

4.     Does advertising lack professional application?

5.     Why are the media involved in promoting illegal advertising?


H1:     Some advertisers neglect the ethics of advertising practice.

Ho:     Some advertisers do not neglect the ethics of advertising practice.

H2:    Unethical advertising practice has effect.

H0:    Unethical advertising practice has no effect.

H3:    APCON stipulated measures to curb illegal advertising.

H4:    Advertising lacks professional application.

H0:    Advertising does not lack professional application.

H5:    Media involves in promoting illegal advertising.

Ho:    Media do not involve in promoting illegal advertising.


In the interest of the render, this writer wishes to outline and explain some key concepts used in this study. They are necessary to guide the reader to note the exact meaning of the words, expressions or phrases as used in the passage for easy understanding.

Possibly, a word might have more than one meaning and this study taken operationalized the concept as far as this project work is concerned.


EFFECT means something that brought about by a cause or agent, a result, it is the power to produce an outcome or achieve a result.

UNETHICAL means not connected with beliefs and principles about what is right and wrong. It is not morally correct acceptable. It is means of promoting advertising.Unethical Practices

PRATICE it means that it is a way of doing something that is usual or expected way in a particular organization or situation.Unethical Practices

ADVERTISING it is a form of communication intend to persuade if viewers, readers or listeners to take some action. It is an exciting, dynamic, and challenging enterprise. Its often pervasive, fascinating and materialistic nature makes it an object of criticism and misunderstanding. Advertising is also a profession in which a body of experts in involved in the conceptualization, planning, creating, packaging and placing of advertisements on the media.

NIGERIA-Nigeria is a country in West Africa sub-region within the African continent which got their independent in 1960. The evolution of Nigeria state was the creative ingenuity of the British Colonial Masters, especially, lord Lugard, who in 1914 amalgamented the Northern and Southern protectorates in the Nigeria area and thus created one of the largest countries in Africa called Nigeria.Unethical Practices

Nigerian is a geographical/entity area that contains many nations and state.

VITA FOAM is defined as a means of tossing and turning by evenly distributing the body weight. It is a foam that we lay down on when sleeping for a comfortable relaxation after work, activity or when we are tired even feeling sleeping.Unethical Practices



The word effect can be defined in two dimensions. On one hand, it could be regarded as negative and on the other hand, positive. Effect is the negative, what affect the vitafoam in Nigeria in terms of advertisings both in positive and negative.Unethical Practices

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary explains effect in the form of change that yields a result. For instance, one can ask, what is the effect of your discussion? But for this work, an effect means the negative results of unethical or unprofessional practice of advertising on the consumers.Unethical Practices


This is obtainable when there is a deviation from what is supposed to be. That is to say that one may have exhibited an unacceptable behaviour against ones organization or society where the person finds himself.

Negative practice by vitafoam advertisers in Nigeria.

To this end, unethical here means paying no regard to the laid down principles of advertising.


When we say practice, if entails the practicality of what is said, as in theory and practice. In football, for instance, there is a time when the players are told what to do with the football. And they yet to perfect in those lectures by practicing what is taught them.

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