Visit Denmark: Ethics in the Media Today

Visit Denmark - Travel Public Relations

Maybe I’m getting old, but it seems that every day I see or read something in the media that reminds me that our values are not what they used to be. I don’t mean to say that all news is terrible, or all people are awful because that’s not the case at all. It’s just that today’s society is much more accepting of poor ethics and morals. That was my first impression when I read our recent article, Would This Video Inspire You to Visit Denmark?

Her article was based on a video produced by ad agency Grey for VisitDenmark, a Danish online travel and tourist information site. The video depicts the story of an attractive young woman from Denmark who is trying to find her baby’s father. The little guy, August, resulted from a night of unprotected sex, and as the beautiful young woman says in the video, she can’t even remember the father’s name.

When I first watched this video, I almost felt compassion for the woman, whose name was supposedly Karen. Here is a girl who went out, had a few drinks, and made a very serious mistake. As I tried making sense of my own feelings regarding this young mother’s plea, I soon learned that the video is a hoax. Karen was not really Karen at all, but rather a character created for the sake of “good” publicity. The baby in question wasn’t even her baby. It was nothing more than an attempt by a tourist agency to get people to visit Denmark…

In journalism, ethics is always a major concern for any reputable source of information. Should we hold advertising ethics at a different standard? I don’t think so, and I feel pretty safe to say neither would any respectable advertising agency. This form of advertising, a YouTube video, was meant to entice people to visit Denmark in the hopes of having an amazing night of unprotected sex with a Scandinavian beauty.

“The aim was to create a positive awareness of Denmark and to jump-start conversations about Denmark,” said Dorte Kiilerich, CEO of VisitDenmark. “As we don’t wish to keep causing people distress, VisitDenmark has chosen to remove the film from YouTube.”

Well, the video didn’t leave me with a positive impression of Denmark. In fact, how Kiilerich, or anyone else involved for that matter, could consider drinking and unprotected sex to be a positive symbol of a nation is unclear and most certainly unethical to me. Why not portray Denmark with honor and integrity?

Unfortunately, even though VisitDenmark removed the video, it was considered to be one of the most successful ad campaigns in VisitDenmark’s history. The answer is most likely because sex sells and good values mean nothing compared to good ratings.

Over the years, I have watched the same decline in the values of prime time television. When my 14-year-old was preschool and kindergarten age, there were programs I wouldn’t put on because of sexual innuendo. Now I won’t put those programs on because my current five-year-old is likely to see drug use, or inappropriate language, or a full-fledged sex scene.

Years ago, this wasn’t the case. Desi and Lucy never even slept in the same bed on their hit show “I Love Lucy,” which aired October 15, 1951 to April 1, 1960. In fact, when Desi and Lucy found out they were pregnant in their real life marriage, show producers declared that Lucy couldn’t even use the word “pregnant” on the air. Instead, she had to say “expecting.” Just saying the word “pregnant” was inappropriate. Wow! When it comes to standards of morality, we definitely haven’t raised the bar.

Who or what is really to blame for this downward spiral? News, advertising, television programming—whatever the medium is—it all boils down to what we buy into and what we deem as acceptable. Kudos to those who took “Karen’s”story out of the public eye. Like so many things these days, it was inappropriate. But what’s more is that it gave Denmark and its people a bad reputation, and even more unfortunately put women in a dangerous position.

It’s good that at least this time the clip was removed, but really it should never have been published in the first place—in this case, a little good judgment would have gone a long way.

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