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If an advertisement needs to be viewed to know what it’s selling, does that mean its ethical? 

  • Well, flags can be used as objects of design and beauty, but flags are also read for their meanings. Put simply: flags indicate countries and flags indicate businesses or special interest groups. Some flags may even signal a danger to public safety. So should we let companies use flags in their advertisements? What exactly would this mean for advertising and marketing ethics?
  • Advertising is meant to sell something; anything from a product to an idea or concept can all benefit from the use of promotional materials such as television ads, billboards, brochures and fliers, etc. However, many companies decide not only how they but also where they advertise.    It is in these companies’ best interest to gain as much exposure for their advertisements as possible; flags are one way of achieving this goal.
  • The flags that companies use in their advertisements vary greatly. For example, flags can be used to indicate a branch’s location or they can identify the nation of origin for the company itself. Some flags aren’t even flags at all but rather objects designed after flags that point out little bits about what the business does. Furthermore, some flags are just downright comical, with names like “American Bully” and “Obey your thirst” 
  • Although it is not illegal, some companies are using the American flag in their advertisements or marketing strategies. These flags can often be seen at sporting events where flags are hung outside of buildings, flags are on clothing and flags are even being incorporated into logos. For example, a company called “Flag Makers” ran an ad recently with the slogan “Keep Calm and Wear a Flag.” While this may seem harmless to most people, there are some that believe this practice is unethical and unpatriotic.
  • Many people responsible for these ads say that they didn’t mean any harm with their use of flags; many of them believe that using the flag just makes the advertisement more appealing to consumers. However, others think these uses of flags come across as unpatriotic and that companies are trying to use it just to sell their products.
  • “The public is buying flags made in China, not flags made here,” said Lisa Musacchio, owner of Star Spangled Flags, a flag company based out of Connecticut. “I don’t think flags should be used as a fashion statement.”
  • Musacchio believes that American flags shouldn’t be used for anything besides flying proudly outside of buildings and state capitols. It is believed by some people, such as Muscachio and Catherine Lebowitz with the National Flag Foundation, that using flags in this way degrades the importance of flags as symbols of patriotism and respect.
  • Another issue many critics have is with who gets certain contracts to make flags. It is reported that many flags are made in China, which also has flags on T-shirts and flags on flags. Flag Makers advertises their flags as “100% spun polyester” flags; however they actually end up buying flags from overseas companies where labor is much cheaper.
  • This type of flag use is not illegal but needs to be monitored more closely by the government since it can clearly be seen as unpatriotic and unethical.


Why was this important issue?

Flags are increasingly being used as symbols of patriotism and pride. When flags are part of a company’s logo or merchandise, it can be seen as disrespectful to those flags since they are often not made in the U.S.

What is the article based on?

My own opinion is based on the research I have done 

Does the argument use ethical frameworks? 

If so which ones and explain how they strengthen the argument 

Utilitarianism is strong here because there is a balance between promoting a business and considering American flags as a symbol 

Can you refute the argument with evidence from another country, person, etc.? Can you defend your argument against someone who might disagree?

No, because this would be a different country, person, etc.  But you can use Ethical frameworks to strengthen the argument.    

What are some counter-arguments I might have missed? Is there something else someone who disagreed would say? 

No counterarguments were reported. However, if flags are made in China, it is not seen as unethical but just a different market for flags.


The flags in question are not illegal, but when flags are incorporated into a business or made in China it can be seen as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the flags. Using flags just to promote a company is seen as unethical and disrespectful in most people’s minds.

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