Begin by seeing what students already know about commercials and why they are made. Commercials are a form of advertisement that is meant to persuade a person to buy a product or service. From this, students should be asked to define the word persuade.
Explain that to persuade means to try to convince someone of something
For example, a fast-food restaurant will try to convince you their food tastes great, it is something you want to eat and it is better than other restaurants’ food.
This is done for any sort of product. Products do not have to be foods; they can be any type of general merchandise such as food, clothes, movies, etc. Ask the students to recall a commercial that they have seen recently. Ask what happened in the commercial and what product was being sold. Ask the students if the commercial made them buy the product. Explain that commercials use a variety of techniques to get people’s attention and to persuade them to buy the product that they are selling. These techniques can include:
•A spokesperson: A real person, a celebrity, an actor or a cartoon character that appears in ads. The spokesperson says good things about the product or is shown using the product.
•Music: Many commercials use music in the background. Some have a catchy song made just for the commercial. This is sometimes called a jingle.
•Slogans: A sentence or phrase that is made just for the commercial. Slogans can be funny or serious.
•Repetition: Commercials are replayed over and over. Within a commercial, the name of the product will be repeated or a slogan will be repeated so that people remember it.
•Excitement and Fun: Commercials will show people using their products and doing fun or exciting things, like surfing, skateboarding or having fun with family and friends.
•Popularity and Coolness: Commercials will have people dressed in popular or trendy clothing doing things that the majority of people would consider cool. These people are using the product or they become popular or cool after they have the product.
Revisit the commercial(s) that was described by the students. See which of the above techniques were used for the commercial. Acknowledge that the above-referenced techniques may be used in print advertisements as well. Ask the students if some commercials are used to persuade certain groups of people, and who those people or cultures are. It would be beneficial to show sample advertisements that are aimed at kids. (For example, the “got milk?” ads) Ask the kids if the products they see on TV are the same products they have in their homes.
Get the students thinking about who makes the commercials and advertisements. Discuss advertising agencies with your students. Advertising agencies work for the product manufacturers. Their job is to convince or persuade people to buy their product(s). They are educated in the subject of advertising and selling. They know how to aim a commercial or advertisement at a specific group of people. Children are particularly at risk for believing what is presented in commercials, especially if they cannot distinguish between facts and opinions.
Fact = information based on proof or evidence
Opinion = a personal attitude or a belief that cannot be proven
Express the importance of making choices based on factual information that is presented to you. Students must first find out truthful information about food and drink product before consuming them.