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Welcome to the Advertising Analysis Page!


Justification for Teaching Advertising Analysis to Adolescents


Today, more than ever before, it is necessary for young people to become aware of the pervasiveness of advertising, and to learn the critical skills necessary for understanding advertising and consumerism. According to a 2005 study, students in grades third through twelfth spend more than six hours a day engaged with some form of media (Beach 2006). Because advertising has become so ubiquitous in media of all forms, this means that young people spend over six hours a day exposed to some form of advertising. Also, adolescents are accustomed to multi-modality in regards to their media consumption. Thus, in this six hour time, they can be exposed to several different types and forms of advertising at one time.


Because of this large amount of media adolescents are exposed to, it is important that they learn to become aware of advertising, and how this informs their construction of reality. Media and advertising representations become part of our common, shared culture and knowledge. Many stereotypes and common ideas are reinforced by advertising. Without recognizing the impact that advertising has on this cultural literacy, students will be unable to critically respond to the values and beliefs posited by the media.


Further, it is important for adolescents to understand that, although they are continually being positioned by a media text, the text itself is not creating meaning. Rather than remain passive consumers of advertising and what the text seems to be saying, young people must learn to become aware of the meaning they bring to texts, and become more active in their meaning making. Only when students understand the way meaning is created can they begin to comprehend advertising within the frame of the lager consumer culture.


Another reason for teaching advertising is to press upon young people the way that advertising can affect what people think and how they behave. More than simply selling products, advertising has become a form of propaganda that is pervasive in our society. If adolescents are to become critical consumers, they must become aware of the ubiquitous nature of advertising. Also, advertising is powerful in how it impacts media and media content. Advertising is crafted to appeal to a certain audience. From there, media content is geared towards the market the advertising is targeting.


In order to become savvy consumers, students must be aware of the techniques used in advertising. Adolescents must learn to question who is endorsing a product, and whether they are a reliable source for information. It is also important that young people understand the reasoning used in advertising and assess its validity. This is another reason why educators should teach advertising analysis in the classroom.


Advertising affects every part of the lives of adolescents. They are in contact with many different forms of media, each one impacted and shaped my advertising. Young people need to be taught to look critically at the role of advertising in our consumer culture, and what meaning is made through advertising. For these reasons, it is important to teach critical analysis of advertising.


Teaching Activities


These activities could be used as individual teaching activities, or they could be compiled into a unit. We have suggested a useful order in which to teach them if you wish to use an entire unit with your students. You can easily add objectives from your state and content area standards to adapt these lessons for use in your classroom.


*Lesson One*


-Student will be able to recognize what a formal argument is

-Student will be able to identify basic flaws in advertising

-Student will be able to think critically about the messages that advertising sends.



-Microsoft power point and logical fallacies power point file

-Computers for each pair of students

-Examples of advertising that contain logical flaws



1. Bridge: Begin the lesson by showing students examples of advertising that they see in their everyday lives (particularly advertising that does contain logical flaws). The advertising that you choose should be relevant to lived world experiences of your students. Include examples from a variety of media, such as television commericals, magazine advertising, and internet pop ups. Generate a discussion about what advertising is, what its goals are, and how it attempts to achieve these goals.

2. Activities: The main activity for the day will be for students to explore the logical fallicies powerpoint independently. You should adapt the power point to the needs of your specific class. You can add slides, interactive features, or other information that will benefit the specific needs of your students. You may have students complete a worksheet that requires them to identify specific information from their exploration of the power point.

3. Closure: In a large group, again show the advertising that you showed at the beginning of the class. Have students identify logical fallacies in the messages that they send.

4. Follow Up: Introduce students to the advertising journal activity that they will complete for the remainder of the unit.


"Advertising Journal": Have students keep an "advertising journal." Ideally, students should keep this journal with them at all times for a week. In this journal they should keep track of all advertising that they see during the week. They should also track responses or reactions to these advertisements. A two column format in which students record observations in one column and their reactions in the other works very well. Finally, they should complete a short reflection about the patterns that they notice in the types of advertising, the media itself, and its effects on them. This assignment will be due at the end of the unit.


Evaluation: Students will be evaluated on today's lesson based on their participation in the class discussion and their responses on the worksheet guide that they use to explore the power point.


Before diving into serious analysis of advertising, it would be beneficial to help students begin to understand the foundations of logic and more importantly, logical fallacies. The following power point presentation can be helpful for introducing these concepts.


*Lesson Two*



-Students will be able to identify intended audiences for advertising

-Students will be able to recognize how companies reach their intended audiences for their products.



-Two recorded television programs, including the commercials

-Television and VCR or DVD player



1. Bridge: Begin today's lesson by discussing what students recorded in their advertising journals for the past evening. Ask students what programs they were watching when they saw specific advertising


2. Activities: The main activity for the day will be to show advertising from television programs with markedly different intended audiences. For example, you could show commercials from a Saturday morning cartoon program and commercials from the ten o'clock news. You should ideally show ten to fifteen minutes of advertising from each program. While students are viewing the commercials, ask them to record the products that they see advertised and who they think would want to purchase those products. After the viewing, divide students into groups of four and have them write one paragraph that makes conclusions about why certain prodcuts are advertised during certain time slots and who they think makes these decisions.


3. Closure: Finish the day by inviting students to share what they wrote as a group in a whole class discussion about how advertising targets certain products to certain people.


4. Follow Up: Introduce students to a media ethnography assignment. Students should also complete a media ethnography, observing the behavior of other people while watching advertising and its effects on the viewer. For example, they could observe a younger sibling's response to commercials, record these observations, and draw connections between the advertising and the viewer's opinion of the product. They should be prepared to share what they discover with the class during the next lesson.


Evaluation: Today student work will be evaluated by their paragraph responses that they wrote as a group and their participation.


*Lesson Three (this lesson will probably span two or more days, depending on how long your class periods are)*



-Students will be able to think critically about how advertising is created

-Students will be able to analyze their own views of what is "popular"



-Copy of PBS documentary "Merchants of Cool"

-DVD player/VCR/LCD player and computer (depending on how you choose to show the movie)



1. Bridge: Discussion of students' media ethnographies. Specifically ask them about the responses that they noticed their subjects display to the advertising that they saw.

2. Activies: In order to help students understand the masterminds behind advertising, they will watch the PBS documentary "Merchants of Cool." This film details the creative process and the intentionality behind the creation of advertising. Students will be able to see the that advertising is not random, it is a carefully crafted capitalist tool. This activity will also help students analyze their own views of what is "popular."

3. Closure: Discuss what students learned during this viewing

4. Follow Up: Assign students to bring in an advertisement that features their favorite celebrity for tomorrow's activities


Evlaution: Students will be evaluated on their in class responses and participation.


*Lesson Four*



-Students will be able to understand why celebrities are used to endorse products

-Students will be able to think critically about how this affects their own reponse to media advertising



-Advertising for students to analyze

-Copies of this article for students




1. Bridge: Begin with a discussion about the celebrities that are featured in the ads that students brought in. If you have students who did not bring any in, the popular series of Milk advertisements can serve as a good jumping off point for this activitiy





2. Activities: Have students read the article and discuss it in small groups. It highlights the misleading effects that advertising can have on consumers. Students will analyze why certain celebrities are used to endorse particular prooducts. Are these connections usually obvious, or are there more complicated semiotics at work in the ad? Students can also get into issues of sexism, racism, genderism, and classism, as well as analyzing the effects of having one voice speak for an entire demographic group.


3. Closure: To finalize the activity, students will divide into groups based on which celebrities they chose (sports figures, actors, political figures, etc.). They will develop a short presentation that explains why their celebrity type advertises certain products. They can have fun with this activity by embodying or impersonating various celebrity figures.


4. Follow Up: None


Evaluation: Students will be evaluated on their final presentation and their participation


*Lesson Five*



-Students will be able to understand how advertising targets certain age groups

-Students will be able to critically analyze advertising parodies



-Copies of advertising parodies

-Readings about the legal restrictions that alcohol and tobacco companies must follow in advertising



1. Bridge: Show students copies of advertising parodies and have them discuss them


2. Activities: Students should begin this activity by reading articles selected by the teacher that highlight the restrictions that alcohol and tobacco companies have in advertising their products. Then, they will view various advertisements for alcohol and tobacco products from time periods before these restrictions and after them. Students will then think about how these companies have changed their approach in targeting children. Are they targeting children less, or has it just become more subtle and subversive?


Then, students should explore the adbusters website

or see

additional ad parodies

They will specifically look at the mock advertising for tobacco and alcohol. Finally, they will create their own mock advertisement for one of these products.


3. Closure: For a final activity, have students present their mock ads for the entire class. The class can then vote on whose is the most effective


4. Follow Up: Collect students' advertising journals that were assigned on the first day. This can be used as part of your overall assessment of students


Evaluation: Students' mock ads and their participation and discussion


Interviews with Real Teenagers


There is not any better argument for teaching critical advertising analysis to students than the opinions of actual students. This interview features the thoughts of a high school student regarding the role of advertising in her everyday life. What the interview reveals is that she has in depth thoughts and reflections about advertising in her life. She also reveals that this issue is important and valued by young people


Name: Ann

Age: 15

Subject Description: Ann is a very social and outgoing teenage girl. She is part of her high school band, student council, and peer advisor team. She is a high achieving student who is in AP and other honors courses.


What media do you use during an average day?

-I use the internet more than anything else. I am instant messaging people anytime that I am on the computer. My favorite websites are myspace.com and facebook.com. I use them to see what's going on with my friends and to talk to people. I also just got a cell phone, but I probably text message my friends even more. Obviously, I watch television sometimes too and listen to a lot of music on my iPod and on the radio.


How does advertising affect your use of this media?

-Mostly, I'm annoyed by advertising. I can't go to myspace or instant messaging without being bombarded with advertising. On myspace, I've even heard of friends getting viruses on their computers because they accidentally clicked on ads. I also see ads on TV. Usually I just skip over advertising online without even reading it. One weird thing that happened the other day was that I got a text message from some advertising company. I don't even know who it was or how they got my number. In general though, I try not to pay attention to this advertising.


What do you see advertised on myspace and instant messaging?

-Usually they try to sell phones and iPods. A lot of the ads try to get you to play a take game in order to win a phone or something like that. They are usually just scams. I also see tons of ads for online dating sites. I guess that's really popular with some people.


What kind of advertising do you think is most effective?

-TV advertising is probably pretty effective because people can't just skip over it like they can on TV. I guess people with TiVo could, but other people can't. My favorite commercials are the iPod commercials on TV. Thye use music and color to make the product look cool. I also like commercials that actually give you some information about what they are trying to sell.


What advertising do you think is the least effective?

Overexaggerated ads that pretty much lie about their products aren't that effective. I can usually tell when something is too good to be true. Ads that are really dramatic are annoying too. They make me laugh rather than want to buy their product. Ads are also really ineffective when they advertise pointless products that I don't need. I saw a commercial for a nose hair trimmer on TV the other day that I don't think anyone would ever need. I also think it would be ineffective to sell the wrong products to the wrong people, like if you tried to sell old people products on Nickelodeon.


What prodcuts do you see advertised most often?

-Recently I've seen more advertising for cell phones and cell phone plans more than anything else. I'm getting kind of sick of it! Every day it seems like they have some new kind of phone with new features that no one really needs, but they find a way to make it look cool. I also feel like there are tons of commercials for food and restaurants. I guess this makes sense people everyone needs to eat. I think they sell their products by showing happy people eating, which makes you think that you could be happy at their restaurant too.


How do you think advertising is designed?

-Well, the advertising companies probably review their past advertising to see what worked and what didn't. If something didn't sell very much before, they probably would want to change it to try and sell more. I think they also probably try to sell their products to the right demographic. They probably wouldn't try to sell Barbies to older men.


Do you think students should study advertising in school?

-I definitely think that they should. People need to have skills to analyze what they see in the world. Kids will be convinced to buy things they don't need if they don't understand how advertising works. It's important to learn to think critically about the messages in advertising because they can be very confusing.


Name: Lynn

Age: 15

Subject Description: Lynn is an active and involved high school student. She is on the varsity volleyball and basketball teams. Lynn is also involved in peer mentoring and student council.


How often do you use media in a given day?

- I don't think that often. I use my cell phone all the time to talk to friends and call home and stuff. I text my friends and IM with them. I don't watch much TV, I don't have time. But I do listen to the radio and CD's and stuff all the time. I download a lot of music, too. Maybe I do use a lot of media, but not all television.


How much advertising do you see in a given day?

- I don't know. A lot. On TV, it's all commercials. And on the radio. Even online, there's always ads. Like when I download music, there's always tons of ads along the side of the websites. Even at school, we can only use Pepsi, because they, like, advertise in our school. So, I see a lot of commercials and stuff. I get a few magazines at home, at it's all ads. Sometimes you can't tell if something's an ad or an article.


What products do you see advertised most often?

- Mostly beauty products. There are always tons of like, shampoo and skin care stuff. On TV and stuff it's all about looking better. Lotion and perfume and all that stuff is always in magazines, too. Clothes are advertised a lot, too. There are a lot of commercials for clothes. I guess it's all about how you look. That's what most ads are about.


How do you think advertising is designed?

- Aren't they really smart about it? Like smarter than the people looking at the ad? We learned in school that they have all these things they do when they make ads. They know what people will look at and how they will react to something. They even think about what color to make things and what people will think of when they look at something. They are really smart about what they do and how they get people to buy their stuff.


Do you think that learning about advertising in school changed how you view it?

- Yeah. For sure. Before I didn't think about it at all. But now, I will sometimes think about what they did to make the ad. And what they are telling me to think with the ad. I think more about the ads I see now that we've learned about it in school. Before I didn't think about them at all, but now I do. I guess that it was a good thing to learn about in school. Now I feel smarter about commercials and stuff, because I know more.


Name: Dillon


Subject Description: Dillon is an outgoing high school student. His is involved in the school band, and plays the guitar in a band with three of this friends. Dillon is involved in several activities in school, such as the Honor Society and the student government.


What media do you use on an average day?

- Music for sure. Music all the time. I always have my ipod and am downloading music or buying CDs. I talk on my cell phone some. And instant message my friends. I guess I'm online a lot. Those are the big ones, music, cell phone and the internet. Oh and TV, of course.


How does advertising affect your use of media?

- I guess that it's mostly annoying. Ads are always trying to tell people what's cool. But that's so old most of the time. Even downloading music is like that. I get these e-mails that say I should try some "new music." But it's always some old stuff that's been around for a while. Or it's really corporate and produced and lame. The stuff they tell you to get is always really lame. That annoyes me when I'm just trying to do my own thing and they're trying to tell me what's cool. So, I guess I try to avoid it when they tell me what to do.


Who is "they" that tell people what's cool?

- You know, those people in charge. The corporations with the money. And the people who make the ads and commercials. They don't know what they're talking about. They don't know what's cool. They just want to make money, and they can do that by telling people what to buy and stuff like that.


How much advertising do you see on an average day?

- A lot. It's everywhere. You can't do anything without seeing advertising. You can't even Google something without having all these ads pop up and show up on the computer screen. And on TV. It's all commercials on TV. There are more commercials than there are shows. And on the radio and stuff. Even concerts. They're always sponsored by someone. So, I guess those are like commercials and ads, even at the concerts.


What type of advertising do you think is effective?

- None. None of it is effective. It's not good. They don't know what people think is cool and good. They don't know what people want. They just want to sell stuff and make money. So none of it is good. The only people who know what they're talking about are people like your friends. They know what's cool and what you'll like. But everyone else is just trying to sell stuff to you. But they don't know what you'll think is cool.


Do you think students should study advertising in school?

- Yeah. For sure. People need to know this stuff. People need to know that there are people just trying to make money off of them. They need to know that these corporations and stuff will do really bad stuff just to sell stuff to you. Expecially people in school. They're all so worried about looking cool and all of that. But they need to know that what people say is cool is just about making money and having people buy stuff. Teachers have to tell people that advertising tries to tell people what to do. We should learn about this stuff in school.


Links and Resources


Here you will find additional resources that you can integrate into your lessons or peruse to add to your own understanding of advertising analysis


The Advertising Laboratory at MIT: This is a really valuable resource for staying up to date with the latest development in advertising strategies. From 3D holographic ads to personalized advertising on M & M's, you can find the future of advertising here!


Analyzing Campaign Ads


YPulse: Marketing site focusing on teens


Wikipedia's take on



A Youtube video the about Republican use of fearmongering in political ads


Alloymartketing advertising/public relations campaigns: examples of advertising by one of the country's largest PR firms aimed at youth.


New study has good and bad news for television advertising

industry (9/26/2006)


The good news for the advertising industry is that nearly

a third of television commercial breaks are watched from start to finish during prime time, but the bad news is half are watched for 60 seconds or less, says a new study by Ball State University.

The results are from "Remotely Interested: Exploring TV Viewers Advertising-Related Behaviors," a behavioral study that was unveiled Sept. 27 by Ball State's Center for Media Design (CMD) research staff in New York at the Forecast 2007 Conference: Media on Internet Speed.


"The debate to define a commercial minute is currently a major point of discussion for advertisers, media owners and agencies," said Mike Bloxham, CMD's director of insight and research. "This study has enabled us to provide insights to what really happens during an average person's prime-time viewing such as the percentage of commercial breaks we observed where attention was compromised through channel-changing, using another medium like a magazine, talking to someone else in the room or leaving the room altogether.


"Watching television is not as simple as it seems at face value," he said. "There are a number of choices that viewers can make that compound the complexity of 'watching television.' If advertisers and media owners want to keep up with these changes, they need to understand complex human behavior, which will only become more complex as we have more options available to us on screen."


CMD researchers shadowed 49 Muncie and Indianapolis area residents in their homes as they watched three to four hours of prime-time television. The average observation was 3.7 hours, resulting in 179.2 observed viewing hours.


Researchers gathered data via touch-screen devices that allowed observers to record, in five-second increments, changes in channel, television content types, use of the electronic programming guide (EPG) and other behaviors.


The study found:


The average ad break exposure was 2.2 minutes with 32.7 percent of the study's ad breaks watched in their entirety

Nearly half of the ad breaks were watched for one minute or less with 15.4 percent of commercial blocks viewed for 31 to 60 seconds before interruption; 12.1 percent lasted 16 to 30 seconds; 11.8 percent were between 6 to 10 seconds; and 9.1 percent lasted 5 seconds or less

About 45 percent of advertising breaks were interrupted by scene-shifting behaviors, including channel changes (50.5 percent of scene shifts), EPG use (31 percent) and leaving the room (18.5 percent)

"Obviously it's good news for advertisers that nearly a third of the observed ad breaks were watched from start to finish," he said. "On the other hand, it is not so good where viewers are only watching part of a commercial break. If their attention has been lost in less than a minute, advertisers need that much more airtime to reach the kind of numbers they want often enough to stand a chance of getting their message through."


More information about the study and other CMD research



October 6, 2006, The New York Times

Living the Promotional Life



CAN an affable 30-year-old conceptual artist turned comedian sell cars to his generation by using nontraditional media like blogs and Webisodes?


That is the multimillion-dollar question Nissan North America is asking as an unconventional campaign gets under way to stimulate interest in the 2007 Nissan Sentra among a target audience of youthful urbanites. Six agencies are collaborating on the campaign, which takes the fanciful tack of asking the comedian, Marc Horowitz, to spend seven days in a Sentra to bring to life the theme: “The next generation Sentra. You could pretty much live in it.”


The results of Mr. Horowitz’s week this summer inside the car that Nissan gave him will be presented to consumers in their 20’s and 30’s mostly in the media forms they favor, which include MySpace, TiVo, video clips meant to be shared with friends and the video shorts known as Webisodes.


The shorts and a diarylike blog kept by Mr. Horowitz are posted on a dedicated Web site (nissanusa.com/7days) with features about the car. Nissan’s hope is to sell considerably more than the estimated 120,000 vehicles sold in 2005.


The Nissan campaign, with a budget estimated at $40 million to $50 million, is emblematic of the growing efforts by marketers to remake their media choices to reflect the changing behavior of younger consumers, a prized demographic group because they spend freely and are mostly still figuring out their brand preferences.


These days, the media plan must be as creative as the creative part of the campaign — if not more so.


“We’re looking at how people consume media, not how we think they should consume media,” said Jan Thompson, vice president for marketing at Nissan North America in Gardena, Calif., part of Nissan Motor of Japan. “We’re inviting them, not interrupting them.”


“This is the first time we’ve had a nonlinear content approach,” she added, referring to a departure from a reliance on television.



To be sure, Ms. Thompson said, “there is a trade-off” in concentrating ads in the new media because it can take more time and effort to reach the intended audience and more coordination is required to keep track of all the moving parts in such campaigns.


But “there’s better engagement than you can get with traditional, linear television,” she added, “and we can measure impressions, interaction rates and view-throughs” to determine whether the new media elements are working.


Although the campaign includes old school media like TV, print and outdoor ads, the difference, Ms. Thompson said, is that “traditional is not the core of the campaign, it’s part of the campaign.”


The Nissan media agency, OMD, part of the Omnicom Group, is overseeing the media aspects of the campaign, working with sibling shops like TBWA/Chiat/Day, the Nissan creative agency. Also involved are agencies not owned by Omnicom, which include Edelman, for public relations, and the Vidal Partnership, for ads aimed at Hispanic consumers.


Another role the new media play in a campaign like this is to burnish the image of the product being advertised, by casting a hipper, contemporary halo over the brand.


“The Sentra had become a deal car, and it had to go from deal car to desired car,” said Rob Schwartz, executive creative director for Nissan at the Playa del Rey, Calif., office of TBWA/Chiat/Day.


Constantly making deals on Sentra meant that Nissan could not “get the ideal person driving the car,” Mr. Schwartz said, “the urbane, more youthful target.”


Rather, “you get a 49-year-old suburban woman smoking brown More cigarettes,” he added.


The campaign is intended to appeal to younger consumers “who live what we call the morning-to-morning lifestyle,” Mr. Schwartz said. They “get up, go to the gym, go to work, go out, and your car becomes your paradise.”


“That gave birth to the idea, ‘Hey, what if we had the guy live his life in this car?’ ” he added.


The guy is Mr. Horowitz, described by Mr. Schwartz as “a true product of our age,” who, in his off hours, “is a creator of content, including a blog, video and T-shirts,” and displayed the “curiosity and skepticism” common to his generation.


“He said, ‘I don’t know if I want to sell out,’ and we said: ‘Dude, this isn’t selling out. It’s a product demonstration,’ ” Mr. Schwartz recalled, adding that the agency found Mr. Horowitz in a casting book.


Mr. Horowitz’s résumé includes a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Indiana University, photography and video shows in San Francisco and performance-art projects like taking strangers to dinner and picking up the check.


Mr. Horowitz, who now lives in Los Angeles, said he drove to his audition in a 1990 Volvo that was “old beyond its years, a beater with 275,000 miles on it.”


“After they gave me the job,” he added, laughing, “they told me much later” that his role would involve spending a week in a Sentra.


•Nissan is, of course, not alone among automakers in turning to the new media to market cars and trucks. For instance, the Ford Motor Company is sponsoring a vlog, or video blog, to be created by Amanda Congdon, formerly of the popular rocketboom.com Web site, as she drives across the country in a hybrid Escape sport utility.


Mr. Horowitz said he had completed most of his work on the campaign; he wrote the blog entries and made the Webisodes over the summer. He may discuss the campaign on his personal blog (ineedtostopsoon.com), which he said he had been writing since 2001, and he will make personal appearances on behalf of the campaign this month.


“You’ll be able to see me driving around L.A.,” Mr. Horowitz said. “I still have the car.”


Asked what he would do if drivers began pointing at him at traffic lights, Mr. Horowitz replied: “God, I hope not. I’ll just make myself blend in. I might cover the car so it looks like a gigantic piece of bacon.”

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