Powerfull Voice of Kids - Digital & Media Literacy Education

  • Analyzing Advertising


How do children learn to analyze advertising?



Ads are everywhere, and today's children grow up in a consumer culture, where they are targeted from cradle to grave. Students need practice to learn to recognize and analyze the many forms of advertising that surround them. Many ads are designed to be entertaining - and for this reason, it may be difficult for children to distinguish between advertising and other kinds of informational or entertaining media content. Many TV commercials, for example, use exactly the same kind of animation techniques as the programs that they are embedded in. Teachers can model for students how to ask good "how" and "why" questions:  How do you know this is an ad? What techniques are used to attract our attention? How does the the advertiser link a product/service to a feeling or emotion?


We know that there is no one "right answer" when it comes to analyzing advertising. But it is important not to villainize advertising and to respect the fact that children often have postive feelings about ads and the products they promote. We understand that ads serve an important purpose in helping to pay for media products and help consumers make good decisions. When children can critically analyze ads, they are able to recognize the difference between genuine and false claims. They know that the advertiser has a right to attempt to persuade and the consumer has the right to accept, refuse or reject the persuasive message.


1. Start with Experience. Select a ad from a popular children's television program or use Lego Elves or McDonald's Loving below. Ask:  


  • What do you like about this product? What do you dislike about this product?
  • How did the ad attract and hold your attention?
  • Who is the ad communicating to? What kind of people will be most interested in this ad?


2. Debate: Should advertisers market to children? Why or why not?  Discuss the image: Ad Baby. What message is the author communicating with this image? Form 2 teams and prepare arguments to address the question: Should advertisers be allowed to market to children? Why or why not? 


3. Learning to Identify Advertising. What should children know about advertising? Read and discuss Helping Your Child Make Sense of Advertising. Then watch Magazine Advertising - Search and Find. Discuss:

  • What makes this activity fun for kids?
  • Why is it sometimes difficult for children to distinguish between advertising and editorial content in a print magazine?
  • What are some key vocabulary words that help children learn to recognize print advertising?  
  • How does learning to recognize advertising support literacy development?

4. Advertising Supports "Free" Media. Advertising in newspapers, magazines, radio, and online helps pay for the costs of producing media content, like television shows, radio broadcasts, and sports programming. Review the chart Ad Spending in England to see how much money is spent on advertising each year and see if you can identify the icons that represent the different types of media content that are paid for through advertising. View the What's Wrong with YouTube Ads? video and discuss what you learn about the economics of advertising from the author's perspective. 


5. Debate 2: Is Advertising to Children on YouTubeKids Unfair and Deceptive? The Campaign for Commercial Free Television has asked the FCC to block YouTube Kids. Learn more about YouTube Kids by watching the video and pay special note to the brands listed in the Up Next column. Then Learn more about their argument in this story from Time Magazine. Then form 2 teams to address the argument: Advertising on YouTube Kids is unfair and deceptive. 


6. Compose, Create and Take Action. Review How to Make a TV Commercial in 5 Easy Steps. Then work with students to create a commercial for your school, using the five steps to create a memorable television commercial that helps brand your school. 



  • What do children and adults love and hate about advertising?
  • Why is it important to help students understand how advertising links products with feelings? 
  • How can advertising analysis and creative production activities support students' listening, speaking, reading and writing  skills? 

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  • created 8 years ago
  • last updated 7 years ago