Ethics in copywriting (and life) is a big deal. But not for the reasons most people think. We mostly understand right and wrong, good and evil by how we’ve been brought up (the proof of this is the way in which laws differ depending on which country we live in – along with the prevailing culture of that country).
What is a criminal offence in one country (eg. drugs) is not a criminal offence in another (eg. Holland). That’s just one of hundreds of examples of what some may call weird ethics.
But I have a rule of life, which if followed, pretty much negates every other law in existence (and by negate, I mean makes redundant). And it’s this: “don’t hurt anyone mentally, physically, or spiritually.”.
That’s the only law that matters. It boils down to one thing: The Right To Your Life.
But what happens when someone does hurt someone else? We create laws. The law may be an attempt to rehabilitate. It might be a law to lock someone up, or, it may be any of a multitude of other remedies. The critical point being, that once an injustice has been done (hurting someone), the only way to fix it is through justice.
If someone cheats (in any way), someone else loses. If they lose mentally, physically, or spiritually, then an injustice is done, and justice is served.
But there’s another point here. Cheating is the easiest thing to do on this planet. To lie, steal, cheat, or otherwise fool people into doing things they would never normally do (or give up things they would never normally give up), brings no long-term satisfaction – because it is easy to do.
Long term satisfaction is the only satisfaction worth having (and ultimately, satisfaction is what makes us happy).
So even if we don’t care about ethics, we still need to know that doing the right thing (ie. not cheating) is the ONLY way to be happy.
And that means writing honest copy. Copy that doesn’t promise what cannot be delivered (eg. so-called ‘Lifetime Guarantees’ – whose lifetime?).
It means stating how your offer benefits people and why it’s better, not because that’s how to cajole and force people into buying it, but because that’s how it benefits them (obvious, but not obvious to some).
And the point? Well, apart from giving yourself a far better life than the ‘get rich quick’ copy cat brigade, you’ll enjoy the challenge of writing better copy with the knowledge that no one got hurt (and that is the noblest thing anyone can do in this industry of ours).