It is estimated that the average 20-year-old American
has seen one million commercial messages throughout
his or her life. This number is sure to rise, as teens
are the fastest growing consumer demographic, spending
billions ($150 billion to be exact) of dollars each
year, and thus commanding the rapt attention of many
companies and advertisers. These compelling statistics
raise some vital questions to any concerned teacher,
parent or citizen: what is the effect of advertising
on our teenagers? Is there a connection between the
increase in advertising and social unrest? Do cases
of depression, self-mutilation, and eating disorders
reflect plummeting self-esteem as children feel they
can never be as happy, thin or beautiful as the people
portrayed in ads? Would as many people want to divorce
their partner if ads did not glorify casual trysts
and sex appeal as the highest measure of worth? I
do not purport to know the answers to the questions,
just as I will try to avoid accepting packaged, slick
answers provided by a statistic, study or ad itself.
Instead, I would prefer to encourage teenagers to
become literate media critics who may grapple with
some of these questions themselves.
This unit strives to make explicit the persuasive
devices of print and televised advertising so that
students may analyze their messages. Once students
have done this, they compare these messages about
topics such as wealth, sex, joy and beauty with their
own values. Lastly, they will be encouraged to develop
an understanding of how advertising either reflects
or influences their own behavior and value system.
Students will write a persuasive essay defending this
thesis. In addition to writing an essay, students
will be required to create a "counter ad."
This counter ad will use all the effective techniques
found in real ads, but it will truly reflect the values
held by that individual.
Do advertisements influence or reflect teenage culture?
3 weeks (Daily 50 minute periods)