Marketing and advertising have a significant impact on public perceptions. Market researchers have an ethical obligation to conduct research objectively, so that available data allows for the development of a balanced or reality-based picture. Researchers who allow their own prejudices to skew their work tend to contribute to the perpetuation of stereotypes in advertising, the development of destructive social constructs and the enabling of unjust profiting from poverty. For example, a market researcher with a one-dimensional view of minorities could do a fair amount of harm if allowed to shape an advertising campaign based on skewed data collection.
Researchers must get informed consent from their subjects before beginning research. Informed consent means that subjects must know enough about the research to decide whether to participate, and they must agree to participate voluntarily. Furthermore, researchers have an ethical obligation to prevent physical and mental harm to their subjects. If there is any risk of harm, they must warn subjects in advance. Researchers also must allow subjects to withdraw from a study at any time if they wish to stop participating. Finally, researchers have an obligation to protect the anonymity of their subjects.