And there's the rub. Barely noticed, yet there, exerting a powerful influence on how children choose to buy, think, and act.
In previous posts I've discussed persuasive writing (Convince Me: Real-Life Uses for Persuasive Writing and So What’s Your Point? Persuasive Writing Using Picture Books) as well as financial literacy (Dollars and Sense for Students). Now Scholastic has teamed up with the Federal Trade Commission to combine these two ideas, plus the concept of media literacy, to produce the Admongo site and its related teacher resources.
The FTC site explains that
Advertising is a multi-million dollar business. Truthful advertising provides benefits to consumers and competition. It gives consumers the information they need to make better-informed purchasing and product use decisions. It also gives companies an incentive to modify their products to provide features that customers want. By contrast, false advertising interferes with decision-making and hinders competition.
- Who is responsible for the ad?
- What is the ad actually saying?
- What does the ad want me to do?
So why study advertising? There is perhaps no better real-world use of critical thinking and reading skills than the accurate interpretation of mainstream media. Because so many of our daily thoughts and actions are based upon what we're told to believe, it's imperative that we become more educated and discerning in our media consumption. Media literacy allows students to put discrete reading and writing skills to work as they learn advertising's tricks of the trade.
Additional Recommended Sites
While the Scholastic resources and the Admongo site are impressive and complete in themselves, I also recommend the following resources:
- Co-Co's AdverSmarts: An Interactive Unit on Food Marketing on the Web is "an interactive unit designed to help kids between the ages of 5 and 8 recognize the marketing techniques used on commercial web sites that target children." I'd use this site for the younger set (up to fourth grade).
- Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is an intelligent and innovative program aimed at helping girls understand that self-image isn't dependent upon media messages. While you're at that site, be sure to check out the teacher resources.
- The Ad Council has provided access to many of the campaigns from its 60 years of existence. The quality and impact of their PSAs (Public Service Announcements) is legendary, and students should see that ad techniques can actually be used for good rather than evil. Need an example? Check out this video on Reducing Gun Crime (also embedded below).
One terrific companion book for the classroom is Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know by Shari Graydon (Annick Press). For older students, this book is a terrific expose of how persuasive writing is used to influence consumers. It's also a pretty cool "idea book" for putting persuasive writing skills to work.
For younger students, Do I Need It? Or Do I Want It? by Jennifer S. Larson (Lerner) is an attractive yet informative choice, allowing opportunities for lots of discussion about what we choose to buy and why. (Be sure to check out other titles in Lerner's Exploring Economics series).