Ads... Always about Spending?

Objective :

  • Distinguish information from advertising;
  • Become familiar with the main aspects of the law that prohibits advertising to kids under age 13.

Description :

Students begin with a dictation that presents a commercial ad and a public service ad. Then they discuss the differences between the two types of advertising, followed by an association and integration exercise.

Equipment :

Introduction :

Ask students to take a sheet of paper and dictate the following, which includes two advertising texts:

Grow Up Now!

Everyone loves the new drink Grow Up Fast!, whether for the fresh explosion of its unique taste or for its extraordinary human growth properties. A magic ingredient stimulates your muscles and will make you grow 15 cm in only three months! You’ll finally get some attention in the schoolyard! Because one bottle a day of Grow Up Fast! will improve your life forever.

Being hard-headed won't protect you!

Jeremy is 11 years old and loves snowboarding, but he will never walk again. Every year in Québec, thousands of kids are seriously injured because they played sports without the right protection. Whether you’re biking, skating, sliding, skateboarding, or practicing another high-risk sport, just wearing a helmet can save your life. Don’t be a statistic, protect yourself with a helmet!

Correct the dictation. Afterward, ask students the following questions:

  • What differences can you see between the two texts?
  • What is the aim of each one?
    Sell a product (Grow Up Fast! beverage) / sell an idea (wearing a helmet)
  • What is the main goal of each ad?
    Make money / prevent accidents
  • Who is paying for this type of ad?
    A company / the government or a non-profit organization
  • Which ad could have a negative effect on kids? Why?

    Explanations :

    In both cases, the text is an ad. However, there are real differences between a commercial ad and a public service one.

    Commercial advertising

    Public service advertising

    Tries to sell a specific idea, product, brand, or service

    Tries to sell an idea or change the public's behaviour for a healthier lifestyle

    Merchant’s interest: the beneficiary is the company that wants to sell its product, service or idea.

    Public interest: the ideas or behaviours aim to improve the quality of life for the general public.

    The ad must be profitable, that is, it must encourage people to buy the product in order to boost sales.

    An ad’s effectiveness is not measured by how much money it makes, but by the improvement in a given situation. (For example, wearing a helmet reduces the number of serious injuries.)

    The good or services generally satisfy the customer for a short time.

    The idea or behaviour generally does not provide short-term satisfaction, but a long-term benefit. (For example, cutting out cigarettes can be hard in the beginning even though it’s good for the smoker’s health.)

    Commercial advertising to kids under age 13 is prohibited. (Children’s well-being is not always the concern of advertisers: their goal is to make money rather than improve children’s quality of life. Kids are not always in a situation where they can think critically and distinguish true information from promotion.)

    Public service advertising can target kids, subject to certain conditions.

    Instructions :

    To help students assimilate the content, give everyone a copy of the Commercial or Public Service Advertising? document. Students can do the activity alone or in teams. The Answer Key provides answers and avenues for reflection for a deeper discussion of the examples.

    Conclusion :

    Ask students:

    • What are you taking away from the activity?
    • Name some commercial and public service ads that you can remember.
    • The next time you watch television at home, pay attention to the ads and think about whether they are commercial or public service-oriented.