Sunday, June 27, 2010

Selling It

“You really need that,” my seven year-old announced one day, pointing at the TV. An infomercial for the Buxton Organizer, a “stylish genuine leather over-the-shoulder organizer,” shows an exasperated woman digging through her purse while her MIA cell phone frantically rings. “I already have a purse,” I replied, somewhat defensively. “But look at how much stuff it holds!” my daughter breathed, while the woman on the commercial stuffed a wallet, cell phone, two water bottles, an umbrella, and what looked like an entire cosmetics counter worth of makeup into her bag. “And it comes with a little message reminder thingie,” my daughter pressed. “You know how much you forget stuff!” A year later, while I still don’t have a Buxton Organizer, my daughter has not forgotten the commercial. Each time I dig through my purse, she announces, “You really should get the Buxton Organizer on TV.” Ah, the power of advertising.

It’s no secret that children are especially susceptible to advertisers. Product placements are rampant in TV shows and in movies, and kids are constantly bombarded by sleek images of new games, fast food, candy, clothes, and other stuff in all forms of media. Such marketing is big business: about $15-17 billion is spent annually by U.S. companies on advertising campaigns directed solely at kids. While financial, media, and economic literacy should be consistent topics at home, they are also subjects that must be included in the curriculum. As the current economic climate shows, we need to be more proactive in teaching students about deception and truth in advertising, how products are marketed to consumer groups, and the dangers of spending money on items that you don’t necessarily need (or can afford).

My picks this week all focus on resources that encourage students to think critically about advertising, and the methods used to hook consumers. Most of these lessons can be adapted for higher or lower grades. The first lesson is from Media Awareness Network, a Canadian non-profit organization that offers a wealth of digital and media literacy resources. The second two lessons are from Admongo, a joint venture between Scholastic, Inc. and the Federal Trade Commission. Admongo focuses on advertising and media literacy resources for tweens.

"He Shoots, He Scores": Alcohol Advertising and Sports
Subjects: Media Literacy, Social Studies, Language Arts
Grade: 4-6
Ever count how many beer commercials appear during a sports broadcast? Me neither, but I know it’s a lot. Advertising via sports figures and events is highly lucrative for alcohol companies, and shows no signs of abating. In this lesson, students examine how companies influence consumers by sponsoring sporting events and hiring sports figures to sell products.

Ad Awareness
Subjects: Media Literacy, Social Studies, Language Arts
Grades 5-6
At its core, advertising is the art of persuasion. This lesson has students explore just what advertising really is - what ads do and what they seek to accomplish. The lesson also has students examine who is ultimately responsible for an ad, what the ad is really saying, and most importantly, what the ad is trying to get them – the consumer – to do.

Ad Targeting and Techniques
Subjects: Media Literacy, Social Studies, Language Arts
Grade: 4-7
In this lesson, students learn how and why advertisers use certain techniques to reach a specific target audience. One goal of the lesson is that once students understand these techniques and how they are used, kids can decide for themselves what they actually think about the products.

~Joann's Picks - 6/25/2010~

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