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What are we actually selling in the media?

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PLEASE NOTE: This guide was originally written in French. If you are using the English version of our site, you will see an automatic translation. You can change the language from the menu in the site header or see our English language guides here.

In Canada, November 4-8, 2013 is Media Awareness Week. Let's take advantage of this time of the year to make students aware of the omnipresence of advertising and empower them to exercise their critical thinking before endorsing one or another product rather than another.
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Young people do not escape the many advertisements that are found everywhere in their environment. They are constantly exposed, sometimes without knowing it, to the big advertising campaigns of the companies of this world. Do they know how to spot misleading ads? Do they recognize the dangers of being exposed to so many commercials everywhere they look? The following activities offer ideas for raising awareness so that they avoid being fooled by catchy jokes or products that their favorite stars profitably endorse.
“The Consumer Protection Act prohibits commercial advertising directed at children under the age of 13. Young people are, however, often exposed to advertising. This awareness campaign therefore fits very well into the important educational mandate of our organization. The tools we offer aim to help young people better understand the messages addressed to them ”.
Source: Consumer protection office


At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:
- Exercise critical judgment when viewing advertising messages;
- Recognize stereotypical advertisements;
- Develop media advertising taking into account a target audience;
- Keep written records after viewing an informative video;
- Question your peers to better understand their understanding of stereotypical and adapted advertisements, and those which are misleading.

Suggested Activities

ACTIVITY 1: Where can we find the advertising?

Question your students so that they can name the different places where they are exposed to advertising. This discussion will allow you to activate their previous knowledge and make them aware that advertising is all around them.
Here are some possible questions:
- What are the places where there is the most advertising?
- Are you influenced by advertising? How? 'Or' What?
- What type of advertising appeals to you the most? Why?
- What type of advertising turns you off? Why?
- Etc.
here are answers that might help to fuel your contextualization.

ACTIVITY 2: To be or to appear? Young people facing gender stereotypes

Watch the short movie (24:41) produced by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to facilitate a discussion with your students on the stereotypes they face on a daily basis.
Give them a copy of the listening grid (Word version or PDF version) on which they will be able to record keywords throughout the viewing of the video.
As a large group, following the viewing, collect the students' ideas aloud and lead a discussion following the comments they have noted on the listening grid.
This discussion may make them realize that the other students in the class are going through similar media-related situations and that advertising is very subjective to the person exposed to it, for different but equally legitimate reasons. Listening to the perceptions of other young people their age will certainly shed new light on the way they view the consumer products that constantly surround them from a very young age.

ACTIVITY 3: What are we actually selling?

Suggest that your students become critics of advertising campaigns! Group them into small work teams in order to generate interesting discussions between them when the time comes to determine which advertisements will be selected according to the selection criteria proposed below.
Ask them to bring different magazines to class so that they can observe the different advertisements in them. You could, if possible, invite them to the computer lab instead of using magazines, so that they scour the web for ad campaigns.
Suggest that they visit the following sites if you can:
The top 10 video ads that left their mark on YouTube in 2012

The selection of the best TV commercials

The advertisement

Their mandate is to find the 3 advertisements (print or video) respecting the following criteria:
a) Stereotypical advertising, that is, advertising that clearly exposes a stereotype related to the sex, age group or age of the target market.
b) Misleading advertising, that is to say advertising a different image of the product that is for sale. The projected image has nothing to do with the product to be sold.
c) A perfect advertisement according to them, that is to say which goes straight to the goal, without stereotypes, and which expresses a clear message to the consumer.
Invite them to make a collage of their advertisements or insert them into word processing software, while remembering to cite the sources of the images. If the activity is done with magazines, display the results in your class and invite the teams to explain the reasons for their choices. If the activity is carried out on the computer, you could have the students' results printed in order to make the same type of feedback as mentioned above (activity with magazines). When the collages are on display, move around the classroom as if you were in an art gallery. Ask the students who observe the bonding of another team to question and compare, if necessary, the choices made according to the 3 criteria proposed at the beginning of the activity. Everything could also be experienced virtually on a class blog, using the comments module.

ACTIVITY 4: Creation of an advertisement

Invite your students to develop a media advertisement in the medium of their choice. The most skilful will be able to produce a video montage, otherwise large boxes may very well meet the educational intentions of this activity.
Offer the following avenues for reflection to your students so that they can determine the guidelines to follow when they are in the media image creation process.
a) Who is the target audience for your media product and why?
b) What is the angle you want to use with your media product?
c) What are your intentions or objectives with this media product?

More about the magazine

Media Education: Program Get involved!
Bank of educational activities available on the Media Literacy 101 website
The hunt for the pub
Examples: media images
List of resources on Carrefour education

SCOOP! this is...

Designed to fill short periods or inspire larger projects, the activities offered in the SCOOP! allow the teacher to approach the subject matter in the program in addition to developing the information literacy and digital skills of the students.

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