Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Advertising: A Lesson In Manipulation

This year I'm teaching my unit in advertising and my unit in social inequality at the same time.
The main goal for my advertising unit has always been the same: To understand a little deeper how our opinions and views are influenced by outsiders.
The main goal for my social inequality unit has always been the same as well: To understand that words have power. That there is a link between something as innocuous as, "You can't play," and a systematic segregation.
By teaching these two units concurrently, I noticed two polar opposite reactions with my children while showing them the same product in the different units.
Last Friday, I was giving my kids a fast and furious history to give them a bit of context of our social inequality unit. I started with human migration in general, followed by Christopher Columbus' voyage, his extermination of the Arawak people, the birth of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the birth of the United States, The Civil War, The Jim Crow laws of the South, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama. It's a dizzying amount of information, and we slow it down and build timelines and other activities to make it more concrete, but one of the images I show during the Jim Crow portion is this:

The kids were outraged with Coca Cola. They couldn't believe that something that they knew about and drank would be a part of this.
Today after dissecting a lot of different print ads and coming up with some genres of advertising, I asked them to rate the following commercial:

I asked the kids to think about how this ad affected them positively on a 10 point scale. 1 being not at all, and 10 being life-changing (with a little hyperbole taken for granted). Most kids said 9 or 10, and the lowest rating was a 6.
It wasn't until after class that I started thinking about the contradiction of the two reactions. After the first image, the kids were disgusted with the soft drink. After the video, they were salivating and cheering. Of course it's the same product. It tastes the same. But the image and video manipulates how we like something. This isn't a human revelation. But it is a teaching one. I'd like to search for more images and ads that feature the same product but invoke opposite reactions.

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