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Garden City School Library: Advertising

Essential Question

How can I be more aware of advertisements around me and critically evaluate their persuasive tactics?

Lesson 1 - Introduction

  • Introduction: Explain to the students that we are starting an advertising unit this week, the week before the Super Bowl. Ask if anyone can figure out why I'm timing the lessons this way. (Answer: The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched television events each year [110 million viewers in 2017], and advertisers want to show their products to the huge audience.)
  • Discussion: Ask students to define the term "media." They will most likely give you examples, which you can write up on the chart paper/whiteboard. Sum them up as anything that delivers information to you via your eyes or ears.

    The students should already have covered author’s purpose in class. Ask them to list the three purposes: to inform, to entertain, and to persuade. Ask which category advertising falls into (the latter). Ask if anyone has been persuaded to do, think, or buy something because of an ad they saw.

    Ask the students how long they think advertising has been around for. Field answers for a couple of minutes and then show this video: 

    Going back to the list of media examples, ask the kids for examples of where you might see ads. You’ll probably check off all of the items on the list as well as adding new ones. Point out that there are ads right in front of you, and ask who knows what you’re talking about (clothing).

  • Assessment: Track participation. Students who give multiple (correct) answers may also get a classwork point.

  • Extra credit opportunity: Be an ad detective – list products you’ve seen in various locations, including buses and billboards.

Lesson 4 - Questionable Tactics

Three persuasive tactics to beware: generalization (including celebrity endorsements), exaggeration (look at the fine print), and scare tactics. Have campaign ads as examples of the latter.

Lesson 2 - Superbowl Analysis

  • Review: If anyone has brought in the extra credit, share some of their findings with the class as a reminder to be aware that advertising is all around you. (If nobody has done the paper, tell them about some ads you may have seen over the past week.)
  • Discussion: Ask if anyone watched the Super Bowl and if they remember any of the ads. List the ones the kids mention and then show several as examples of the following categories:

    Humor - 2017 Skittles 

    Celebrities  - 2017 Intel, T-Mobil, Kia

    Emotion - 2017 Coke​

    See if anyone can guess how much it cost to have a 30-second commercial air (in 2017, it was $5 million).

Lesson 3 - Product Placement

  • Introduction: Ask if anyone can define product placement in TV and movies. Discuss what it is and ask if anyone can think of why it might be more and more prevalent in television now than it was just 10 years ago (Answer: DVRs and streaming services mean that viewers are skipping traditional commercials.)
  • Discussion: Point out that advertising is a revenue stream for media, and product placement is a win-win for the production companies and the advertisers. In 2013, the Superman movie Man of Steel had more than 100 promotional partners; the film cost about $225 million to make, and had recouped $160 million of that before even selling a ticket. (See and for more info.)

    Many viewers made fun of the 2015  movie Jurassic World because of how prominent their product placement was. Show the kids this video (they like counting along):

    Ask how long they think product placement has been around. Answer: pretty much since they started making movies. Show them this video with examples, but cut off at the 4:00 mark or you’ll end up in Hooters.

    Go back to the beginning of this last video and ask the kids if they can recognize the corporate logos used as letters in the text. Point out that logos are like shorthand advertising. Ask the kids to stand up if they are wearing a logo of any kind.

Bring up this quiz:​ Give the kids a few minutes to yell out the products as you type them in, and then marvel at how many they were able to identify. Ask them what they think about this.


  • Assessment: Track participation. Students who give multiple (correct) answers may also get a classwork point.

  • Extra credit opportunity: Name the product mascot. Before giving it out, ask if anyone can explain how these pictures differ from the logos above (they are characters).

Standards Addressed

AASL: 1.1.2 – Use prior and background knowledge as context for new learning; 1.1.7 – Make sense of information gathered from diverse sources by identifying misconceptions, main and supporting ideas, conflicting information, and point of view or bias; 1.2.4 – Maintain a critical stance by questioning the validity and accuracy of all information; 2.3.1 – Connect understanding to the real world; 2.4.1 – Determine how to act on information (accept, reject, modify); 4.1.8 – Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning.

Common Core: RL.5.6  – Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described; RI.5.8 – Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point(s); SL.5.1 - Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; SL.5.3 - Summarize the points a speaker makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence; W.5.4 - Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience; MP.3 – Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.