People are constantly exposed to advertisements, and marketers are realizing that many people are becoming desensitized to them. The consequence of people becoming desensitized to advertisements is that businesses are becoming more creative in their communication with consumers. A lesson provided by Bonner (2006) helped students become more skeptical of advertisements and smarter consumers.
In this lesson, students were assigned to detect obvious and not-so-obvious examples of advertisements in their everyday lives. The instructor showed students several different forms of advertising, such as newspapers ads, catalogs, shopping bags with store logos, brand-name clothing, and pre-recorded television commercials. After examining the different forms of advertising, students were asked what they have in common, why they think businesses advertise goods and services, and what else businesses do to sell their products (Bonner, 2006).
- What do all of these things have in common? [They are advertisements, calling attention to a good or service.]
- Why do you think businesses advertise goods and services? [Possible answers: to create a positive impression of their business or product, to help people learn about what is being promoted, to encourage people to buy what is being promoted.]
- What else do businesses do to tell us about their products? [Possible answers: they place ads on the radio, the Internet, magazines, billboards, store signs and displays, signs on public transportation, product packages, free samples.]
Advertisements can tell their consumers about prices and other information that will help them make decisions about what to purchase; however, advertisements are slanted because they show they frame messages to make their products appear to be better than they really are. The federal government has required advertisers to back up their factual claims with proof in order to protect consumers (Bonner, 2006).
Another trick that advertisers use when trying to sell their products is puffery. Puffery is the use of exaggerated claims in order to sell their products. In order to be media literate, people need to be able to distinguish between factual claims and exaggerations. This lesson by Bonner (2006) challenges students to create a list of tips to help consumers separate factual claims from mere exaggerations.
In this lesson students were asked explain the role of advertising from the seller’s perspective, distinguish between fact and opinion, and become skeptics of advertisements. Activity 1 is about fact and opinion. The students were told that advertisers make a variety of claims in advertisements; some claims are factual and some statements are opinions. Opinions are statements based on belief or value. After this, students were told to read 10 advertising claims and tell the instructor whether they were fact or opinion statement (Bonner, 2006):
1. Our computer has a one-year warranty on parts and labor. [F]
2. Get 20% off everything in the store this weekend. [F]
3. We pay 5% on savings accounts in our bank. [F]
4. This car is rated number one in government safety tests. [F]
5. This soft drink has zero calories. [F]
6. This is the best movie you will see this year. [O]
7. No one makes better hamburgers. [O]
8. The greatest action figure of them all. [O]
9. The game that is edge-of-your seat fun. [O]
10. The “purrfect” treat for your pet. [O]
The instructor concluded the activity by asking students if whether facts or opinions are best for consumers. Activity 2 taught students that packaging is also a form of advertising. The instructor told students that Packages are designed to attract consumers to the product as they walk down the store aisles, and they are used as the last chance to entice potential buyers. Students were asked to follow this link: http://pbskids.org/dontbuyit/buyingsmart/shoppingbag_1.html. Once they arrived at the website, they were asked to complete the questions (found on the website).
Bonner, P. (2006). Econedlink lessons.
Council for Economic Education