Ads and Counter-Ads

Objective :

  • Develop critical thinking with regard to the messages conveyed by media and advertising;
  • Find individual and collective actions that encourage responsible consumption;
  • Recognize advertising strategies used to sell products;
  • Develop the reflex of researching a purchase before deciding to buy.

Description :

Students are more aware of how advertising affects us and exercise critical thinking in analyzing the content of advertising and advertising strategies. They go on to develop their own advertising campaign.

Equipment :

Introduction :

Divide the class into 8 teams and ask students to identify factors that lead to consumption. As necessary, remind students that we buy things not only to fulfill our needs, but also because we are subject to outside influences. Question students about what affects their consumer choices. Examples: a desire to be like everyone else, the influence of friends or relatives, a desire to be fashionable or follow advertising, a desire to reward yourself.

Tell students that the proposed activity will help them identify the factors that spur consumption and find ways to consume responsibly. After the activity, students are invited to use their imagination to come up with a counter-ad that condemns overconsumption or an ad promoting responsible consumer behaviours.

Instructions :

Let students know they are often specifically targeted by companies and advertisers.

Give each team one of the 8 sheets of the Fact sheets document.

Ask the students to read their sheet, then discuss together the question at the end of the text.

As a class, ask each team’s spokesperson to lead a short debate with the entire group on the question at the end of each sheet.

Invite the spokesperson to summarize the information on his or her team’s sheet, as well as the arguments that came up in their debate, for the whole group.

Explain to students that all these factors are well known to advertising agencies, which put this in-depth knowledge of their target audience to use in boosting sales for the companies that hire them.

Ask the team to find a range of ads selling everyday consumer products. These can be print ads that students cut out from newspapers or magazines, or recorded electronic ads.

Tell the teams to choose the two or three ads that most draw their attention.

For each consumer product, invite the teams to fill out the Ad Analysis Table.

Instruct each team to choose the ad that, after analysis, seems most relevant.

Ask each spokesperson to present his or her team’s selected ad and their analysis of it.

As a group, begin a discussion on consumer values in today’s society based on the following questions:

  • What values are conveyed in advertising?
  • Are behavioural models imposed in this ad?
  • Do these behaviours differ from my own or from those I was taught? Do I agree with these?
  • If everyone consumed everything proposed in the ad, what would happen?
  • What would be the effects on society, the environment, and the economy?

Propose that students turn the class into an advertising agency, where the teacher is the client and students, the advertisers. Remind students that advertisers use multiple strategies to get their target audience to change their behaviour or to buy the advertised goods or services.

Ask students to use their imagination in order to come up with a promotional poster to denounce advertising abuse (counter-ad, ad parodies), to raise public awareness on the negative impacts of overconsumption, or to suggest eco-friendly consumer options. Examples include: trading or bartering, sharing, thinking critically, being yourself, learning to differentiate needs from wants, making instead of buying, reducing consumption, recycling, reusing, redistributing wealth, reassessing your personal values, restructuring economic systems.

Ask the teams to carefully identify the message they want to convey and to choose the most striking strategies.

Distribute the document titled Building the Message and ask students to use it as inspiration for their ad.

Organize a classroom presentation for the ads.

After each one, ask the student “audience” if they think the strategies applied make for an effective message.

Conclusion :

Wrap up the activity by telling students that the more they succumb to influences, the less they are making choices based on their true needs. That’s why it is so important to think critically, to differentiate needs from wants, and to be wary of trends—in other words, to be an informed consumer!