Watching the Watchers

In this lesson, students identify, explore, and analyze the effects if their daily exposure to advertising.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3002.2.1
Demonstrate critical listening skills essential for comprehension, evaluation, problem solving, and task completion.
CLE 3002.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different audiences and purposes.
CLE 3002.5.1
Use logic to make inferences and draw conclusions in a variety of challenging oral and written contexts.
CLE 3002.5.3
Evaluate an argument, considering false premises, logical fallacies, and the quality of evidence presented.
CLE 3002.5.5
Analyze written and oral communication for persuasive devices.
CLE 3002.7.1
Evaluate the aural, visual, and written images and other special effects used in television, radio, film, and the Internet for their ability to inform, persuade,...
GLE 0306.4.5
Solve measurement problems involving fractional parts of linear units and capacity units.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

Students will:

  • Identify all of the instances of advertising or product placements in the classroom
  • Learn about the intersection of marketing and technology by reading and discussing the article "TiVo is Watching When You Don't Watch, and It Tattles."
  • Identify and deconstruct explicit and subtle advertising
  • Record all instances of advertising they are exposed to and analyze the effects to the exposure on their own decision making process
Essential and guiding questions: 

What product or service is advertised?

How would you describe the scene or environment presented in the ad?

Is advertiswing explicit or subtle?

What products were featured?

Who was using or showing the product?

How might you describe the lifestyles or personalities of the people associated with the product in the film or TV program?

What might the advertisers be conveying about the people who use this product or service?

How might the environment or lifestyle presented in the film or TV program influence a personto buy this product or service?

Do you believe the target consumer for this product or service is someone in your demographic group (age, sex, income level, etc.)?

How successful do you think product placement might be in reaching the maximum number of target consumers?

How do you think the more subtle forms of advertising might affect the decisions they make about the products the choose?

What are the potential advantages of technologies that track consumer interest?

What are the potential dangers?

Why are entertainment and consumer culture intricately connected?

To what degree should consumers be aware when entertainment technologies infiltrate private space?

Are you generally aware of the advertising targeted to you on a daily basis?

How might you fell about advertisers finding more subtle ways of selling products to you and your peers? 

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

1.  How has advertising changed over the last hundred years?  Select a medium to investigate further and find examples of advertising that represent each decade.  How have the ads changed or stayed the same in terms of tone and content? Create an illustrated timeline of your findings.

2.  Organize a no-logo day for your school.  Create ads and public announcements informing students taht they must abstain from wearing or carrying any item with a visible brand name.  During that day, photograph students and create a display in a prominent space in the schoo.

3.  What is the difference between an advertisement and a public service announcement (PSA)?  How do they compare in terms of tone and content?  How might they compare in terms of their product or message, cost of placement, target audience, spokesperson and/or design?  Write a critical analysis that addresses these questions citing at least one as and one PSA for comparison.

4.  Creat a How It Works poster about a data-collecting technology such as monitering meters, cookies, adware or spyware.  When was it invented and for what medium?  How does it collect data?  WHo uses it (officially and unofficially), and for what purpose?

5.  Watch "The Merchants of Cool" (2001) and discuss how the issues raised in the film affect your own lives as young consumers.


Interdisciplinary opportunities: 

Civics--What laws exist about privacy and the rights of citizens?  To what degree does the government use emerging technologies to infiltrate private space?

Health--How does food advertising and/or foods consumed in TV shows influence dietary habits?  Do you or your family but food products and/or choose restaurants because of images you see on television?  To what degree do foods you see on TV promote healthy eating?  How much advertising promotes the consumption of processed or fast foods?  Track all of the instances of food consumption you see on TV in any given day.  How and why might the instances of unhealthy eating influence your own eating habits?  How might the presentation of healthy foods and eating habits influence viewers?  Based on your findings, create a public service announcements that promotes healthy eating habits.  Share PSAs with your school.

Journalism--Investigate an organization taht critiques products and/or advertising, such as Adbusters, Anti-Advertising Agency, or Commercial Alert.  Request an interview from one of the organization's directors.  What is the organization's mission?  When did it form and why?  How does it spread its message?  Write an article based on your findings and submit it to the school newspaer for publication.

Language Arts--Write a short story in which you imagine a world without commercial advertising.  Be creative in establishing your sceanario.  Who are the main characters?  Where and when does your story take place?  Why are there no advertisements?  How might you experience your world differently with ads?  How might you experience entertainment (TV, radio, or movies) differently?  How might you make decisions about what foods or clothes to buy?  How else might consumer product companies sell their goods?  Is life better, worse or just different without the ads?  Share some stories with the class.

Teaching with The Times--Read The New York Times every day for one week and clip advertisements related to products that might be targeted to your demographic.  Choose one ad to consider in depth and write a reflection paper that examines the tone and content of the ad.  What images or language does it use to attract your demographic?  What message does the ad convey about the people who might use the product or service?  How might that influence your purchasing decision?  

Helpful Hints

Materials needed:

  • Pens/Pencils
  • Classroom board
  • Student journals
  • Copies of the article "TiVo Is WatchingWhen You Don't Watch, and It Tattles (one per person)
  • Magazine ad
  • TV with DVD player
  • 2-3 clips from a movie or TV program