Do the right thing? Not with a rival's inside info

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When PepsiCo was approached to buy some of Coca-Cola Co.'s "confidential information," it did the noble thing and notified Coke. Pepsi's honorable approach, which led to the July 5 arrest of three people, got us thinking-how many of us would do the same?

Not all that many, as it turns out. More than two-thirds, 67%, of voters in our Advertising Age online poll said if there were no repercussions, they would read the inside information. John Cuneta, game-market analyst and community manager, said he felt the moral obligation to pass on the confidential documents but noted that competition out there is fierce. "There is still this ethical conviction in me that tells me not to open it and respect the competition," he said. "But talk about the competition, and talk about the other party, whether they will open it or not-that changes the whole situation."

Others said accepting the inside info is just plain wrong. "Competition is designed to allow the best strategy to win," said Barbara Sanner, director-marketing, University of Phoenix. "Reading that marketing plan is cheating." Michael Margolies, VP-creative services, BMB, agreed. "We should win by being the best, not by any other means."

Many respondents' answers hinged on the "no repercussions" part of the question, saying in that case, not reading the rival's plans is just bad business. But Sheron Davis, senior VP-behavioral planning, BBDO New York, said the repercussions go beyond corporate-espionage charges. "As long as we have a conscience, there are repercussions," she said.

What you say: 67% of voters said that if given their competitor's marketing plans, they'd take a look. While many voiced ethical concerns, most said competition is too fierce to pass on the inside information. But 33% said they'd rather play fair and be able to sleep at night.
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