Silver Team – Advertisements

Ms. Aggie
July 2009
Students learn about the persuasive power of advertisements and media through exploring food commercials and food advertising, all moving towards producing their own magazine advertisements.

Learning Objective

· Students learn to read advertisements more critically, asking essential questions such as “what techniques are used to grab your attention?”
· Students learn to identify target audiences for advertisements
· Students learn to think about the means to which advertisements construct their messages and the means through which they hide their constructed nature
· Students learn to produce their own advertisements
Time Needed: 3 hours for the discussion of advertisements and about 1to 1.5 days for student production and presentation of their work

Materials Needed

  • Computer and projector
  • Cereal box, milk, bowl, and spoon
  • Magazines (with food advertisements)

1) Watch episode of Saved by the Bell (Season 1, Episode 14, “The Zack Tapes,” about subliminal advertising)

2) Talk to the students about the episode and about how our job in the classroom is to become less easily influenced by such messages. To become more active consumers (define consumers)

3)Review functions of media messages – to persuade, inform or entertain
4) Blind taste test – teacher pours 2 different cereals (one geared for adults and one geared for children) into 2 bowls and blindfolds students asking them to taste each cereal and mark which one they like better. Make sure that the cereals are pretty similar in flavor and try to make sure that the kid’s cereal flavor is not easily recognizable.
5) Then introduce the cereal boxes for the taste test cereals and ask the students which they would rather buy given the box. It may be that their preferred flavor will not be their preferred box. Ask the students: which would you rather buy? Why?
6) Begin discussion of the cereal boxes and how they advertise themselves. Ask students: “What techniques are used to grab your attention?” And begin to list techniques used (toys inside box, lots of bright colors, use of characters)
7) Do the same with the adult cereal.

8) Watch McDonald’s commercial and then watch Frank Baker’s “buy me that” about how burger commercials are designed: Discuss with students how food ads are constructed to make food look a lot more appealing than it is.
9) Divide class up into pairs. Give each pair magazines. Ask them to search through magazines and find three appealing food ads in the mags and be able to discuss what techniques are used to attract their attention and which audience is being appealed to. Then, each pair will come back together and discuss their findings.
10) The next day, watch cereal commercials – those geared to adults (e.g. Special K) and those geared to children (e.g. Cocoa Puffs) and those geared to both (e.g. Honey Nut Cheerios). And again, list techniques used to draw attention and discuss the time of day that these commercials might air.
11) Use commercials as opportunity to discuss branding, slogans, and generic versus brand varieties.
12) Divide students into pairs or groups of three to begin to craft their own magazine advertisements for cereal. The students will be assigned an audience and from there, they have to decide what their cereal is, what it is calle, and come up with techniques to grab audiences’ attention (including characters, slogans, prizes, etc.)
13) Students present their work to the class upon completion.
14) Then view some political ads (like Barack Obama campaign ads) and discuss how advertisements are not always only selling a product but can also try to persuade audiences to buy into an idea or to change their behavior in some way. Analyze the ad for techniques used to make the candidate look attractive.

Student Self-Assessment

· I can understand that advertisements are constructed and use various techniques to draw our attention
· I understand that advertisements cater to specific audiences
· I can differentiate between cereals geared towards adults and those geared towards children
· I can think a bit more when I make certain food choices – am I being swayed by the packaging or by the content?
· I can identify the three different types of media messages (messages that inform, entertain, or persuade)
· I can identify persuasive messages that are not selling a product but an idea
· I can create my own persuasive advertisement to sell a product and can employ a variety of techniques to do so, including creating a slogan, creating a character, and providing incentives to buy my product

Notes upon having implemented lesson plan:
Because the students have been so excited about their letter to the news, we did not follow this lesson plan at all. We did start off lunch with a "blind taste test" in which students closed their eyes and ate from a fruity pebbles bowl and from a banana nut crunch bowl, but they preferred the fruity pebbles and I have not yet begun to work on deconstructing the cereal boxes with them yet. But I will and I think that our work in deconstructing news headlines and layouts might help in analyzing cereal boxes b/c some of the questions are the same (who is this geared to? what techniques are used to draw your attention?) I hope to implement this lesson plan on Thursday July 9.

I finally implemented a large portion of this lesson beginning on Wednesday July 15. On Wednesday, we watched the Saved by the Bell episode, which was a great way to get them seated and attentive. They did not quite catch on to the idea of "subliminal advertising" as discussed in the episode, but we did use the episode as a way of discussing persuasion. I was trying to get them to see that messages can be "hidden" even if they are not subliminal - they can be right before our eyes but we just don't know how to read them. But I had a hard time explaining that to them. I am just hoping that seeing the episode helped them to see that subliminal advertising exists, which is something I never knew before I saw that show when I was young.
Then, that same day, I pulled out the cereal boxes that had contained the cereal we used in our taste test a week or so ago. Now, looking back, I would have done as the lesson plan dictated and done the taste test the same day of the activity. Instead, I had done the taste test last week and picked the lesson back up today. Also, the adult cereal selected should be tasty but not too flavorful. I'd selected a banana nut thing but the students were too turned off by the banana flavor to know whether they liked the cereal or not. And another difficulty in the taste test is that they will be familiar with the kid flavors, so if there is an obscure kid flavor out there, that woudl be good, something like comparing Kix to Kashi peanut butter puffs. That would be good. I went with banana nut crunch and fruity pebbles. While these cereals were not the most effective to use in the taste test, they were ideal for the box analysis.
I showed the students the Fruity Pebbles box and asked them to begin listing the techniques that were used to draw our attention. They noted things like - color, use of Fred Flinstone as a character, games, toys included in the box, lots of activity. And then we did the same for the Banana box. I asked them which audiences these were intended for and how they knew, and they correctly identified FP as a children's cereal and BNC as an adult cereal, because, they said, the Fruity Pebbles box emphasized fun and sugar while the BNC box emphasized good health and showed images of the ingredients to emphasize that point about health.
Then, I divided the students up into a few groups, gave them a couple of magazines each, and had them look for 3 food advertisements in the ad, tear them out, and be prepared to talk about why those ads drew their attention and what was efffective about the ads. Once they'd selected their ads, each group presented their findings to the class. I again made sure to draw their attention to issues of audience and emphasis.
The next day, my teaching assistant, Miss Shantelle, led the class discussion. We showed the students a variety of cereal commercials, for Trix, Cocoa Puffs, and Special K (that is, we showed them cereal commercials aimed at adults and aimed at youth). Again, we listed the techniques used to draw our attention and we talked about audience, how we know that those pieces are aimed at that audience, and what time of day we might see those commercials on air. We compared the differences between the techniques used to draw children's attention and adults.
This discussion also led to a discussion about branding and the difference between brand name and generic cereals. In the future, if I were to do this activity again, I would have prepared a box of generic and a box of brand cereal to show the students that the flavors are hardly distinguishable. We also talked about how items are placed within grocery stores to draw our attention - top shelf versus lower shelf, how as an advertiser and marketer, your job is to sell your proudct so you will do whatever it takes to do so, even down to the detail of item placement. We also talked about the importance of brand recognition. The students had interesting questions, such as, "Why do they use slogans?" or "Why do things like McDonald's have to use something like Ronald McDonald?"
I think today, since they had that question, I might try to show a clip from Super Size Me where Morgan Spurlock does the experiment with youth to show that they have more recognition of Ronald McDonald than they do of the President.
And today, to culminate the lesson, the students will be broken up into groups and asked to create a commercial of their own for cereal - one for a magazine, one for TV, one for children and one for adults.