Who’s Immune to Influence?

Objective :

  • Become aware of how certain factors affect consumer behaviour;
  • Critically examine the advertising strategies that encourage overconsumption;
  • Recognize the advertising strategies used to sell products;
  • Differentiate wants from needs.

Description :

Students must choose between two gifts: the first is in a small box wrapped in newsprint, while the second is placed in a large box wrapped in pretty paper. They are then asked to consider why they chose one gift over the other. The activity wraps up with a reflection on the factors that encourage consumption and the role that advertising plays.

Equipment :

  • Two boxes of different sizes;
  • Giftwrap, ribbon, and bows;
  • Two gift items of different value.

In the larger box, place an object of very little value (e.g., a sticker). Then wrap the box to make it beautiful with a ribbon, bow, etc.

In the smaller box, place a more valuable object (e.g., a bigger sticker with sparkles). Wrap this second box very simply, perhaps using newsprint.

Introduction :

Present students with the two gifts. Tell them it’s the birthday of someone they know. That person must choose between two gifts.

  • Can you help (name of person) choose a gift?
  • Why would you advise him or her to choose that particular one?

Ask two students to open the gifts. Take advantage of their reaction to ask them what influenced their choice (wrapping, box size, colour, the way the gifs were presented, etc.).

Help students realize that some factors have a significant impact on their choices.

Explanations :

Form teams of three students. Ask each of them to choose, among the ads heard lately on television or radio, the one that most caught their attention. If necessary, provide the teams with magazines so they can choose ads to cut out.

For each ad selected, ask students to write down the name of the product that was being sold, as well as the reasons that led them to choose the ad.

Instructions :

Ask the spokesperson for each team to present the selected ad and to explain the team’s choice:

  • What in this ad caught the attention of your team members?
  • Why do you like this ad?

For each of the ads, jot down on the board the advertised goods and services, as well as the factors that influenced these choices.

Ask students whether these ads made them want to buy the advertised goods and services.

Help the students realize certain techniques that advertisers use to instil in consumers a desire to buy the advertised good or service.

Basing yourself on the following text, draw a parallel between these ads and the two gifts presented in the scenario:

Earlier, you chose the gift that seemed most appealing to you. Afterward, you realized that it was not necessarily the right choice. You let yourself be influenced by the gift’s appearance. Do you think that advertisers use the same approach to get you to buy their products?

Prompt students to reflect on the fact that in addition to advertising, a number of other factors shape their choices. For example, it may be family (my big sister has one, why can’t I?), friends (all my friends have the Crybaby Doll!), fashion (I want that baseball hat, it’s all the rage), or financial resources (I’ve got money in the bank, I can treat myself).

Ask students to tell the entire class about each of these factors using examples from their past experience, memories or imagination. Was this an essential item that met a specific need or was it unnecessary?

Conclusion :

Help students realize that the best way to protect themselves against the influence of advertising and against other influential factors is, first and foremost, to determine their needs. Next, get them to understand that the bigger the hold that advertising has on them, the less free they are to make the right choices for them.