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If You’re Not a Dog, Don’t Hide It

Karissa Van Hooser

The Internet often stirs up a lot of ethical debates, especially when it relates to marketers. As Peter Steiner’s cartoon from 1993 reminds us, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” This cartoon brought to light one of largest attractions to the Internet, as well as one of the biggest issues the Internet faces today – anonymity.

First published in "The New Yorker" on July 5, 1993, Peter Steiner's cartoon that brought light to anonymity on the Internet.

It is no secret that you’re never certain of the information you’re receiving from the Internet. You don’t know what credentials the content really has or what the motives of the information might be. This is why online marketers must always be as transparent as possible.

As a marketer, you are naturally associated with some ruthless, unethical standards. After all, we function within a utilitarian industry that will always want to do what is best for clients. Even as a utilitarian industry though, it is important to uphold high ethical standards, not only to benefit your own appearance, but also to transform and maintain the image of the industry and society. When marketing through the Internet, hiding behind an avatar is the first way to lose clients and trust.

Online marketing is here to stay and will continue to grow, but consumer confidence may not go with it. As marketers, you more than likely have fully invested yourself into multiple online mediums. These are the places that truly need full disclosure. Online plug-ins are here to stay, and it isn’t fair to consumers to be misled. To instill confidence in the information being distributed, one must be honest. If you are disseminating information about your client through a personal account, it is necessary that you inform your followers that you possess an association. You may believe you are distributing this information because you genuinely think the product is great, you may also be doing it partially because they’re your client. This is up to the consumers and providing all the vital information they need to properly assess the information is key. If someone finds out that you happen to work for that product you’ve been ranting and raving about, they may no longer believe what you’re saying or in the product. Transparency is not only the best policy for ethics, but also business.