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How advertising affects us


In this lesson, students will learn the most common advertising techniques used across various media today. They will create their own advertisements and critique how other students’ messages were conveyed. NOTE: This lesson requires students to bring in an advertisement to use in class, so you’ll have to remind them the day prior.


  • Students will identify the most common advertising techniques used in the media.
  • Students will compare and contrast which techniques they find most effective.
  • Students will properly identify techniques across different advertisements.
  • Students will design their own counter-advertisement using a technique or combinations of techniques and will present and justify their choices to the class.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1a Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1b Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.


Two 50-minute classes


Advertisements: Brought in by students (remind them the day prior to bring in an appropriate print advertisement from a magazine, newspaper, or they can print one from online)

Class set: Analyzing Ads Worksheet

Slideshow: Advertising Techniques

Drawing paper, scissors, markers, other creative tools for students to use as they create their own ads (a stack of magazines to cut from would be ideal, but not totally necessary)

Lesson step-by-step


1. Building background — 15 minutes

Walk students through the slideshow provided that defines and discusses examples of common advertising techniques. As you discuss each technique, ask students if they can think of a recent ad, either in print, online, or broadcast, that might illustrate that advertising technique. If you have internet and projection in your room, feel free to bring up these examples for the class to see and discuss. Once you’ve gone through the different techniques, stop and discuss as a group the notion of stereotyping in advertising. Ask the class the following questions:

Is stereotyping your audience a smart technique? How could it backfire or be dangerous? Do you think stereotypes generally work in advertisements?

2. Analyze their ads — 10 minutes

Using the ads students brought in, students should work quietly for 10 minutes to analyze their ad. While students are working, write the advertising techniques across the board in a row, with room for students to tape their ads below.

3. Group analysis — 15 minutes

As each student finishes their analysis, they should come to the board and tape their advertisement underneath the technique that they think was most prominent in their advertisement (or most successful). Be sure students tape their ads up in an organized manner so everyone can see each other’s ads.  Once all ads are on the board, take a moment to observe which techniques were most used, and which techniques were largely absent from the ads the students brought in. Discuss the large group findings, asking questions like:

  • Are you surprised that some techniques were hardly used? Why or why not?
  • Are you surprised at the techniques that were used the most? Why or why not?
  • What stereotypes did each ad invoke?

Go through each technique, and ask the class to vote on the ad that immediately stands out the most. Then ask for feedback about why that ad stands out. Have the student who brought in the ad talk a little bit about their analysis to help determine what made the ad effective.

4. Literacy reflection and part two preparation — 10 minutes

Now that the class has a decent understanding of some of the main techniques in advertising, it’s time to think about this genre of media from a more literate perspective and to prepare them for the project they’ll work on tomorrow. Explain that all advertising techniques are based off assumptions and knowledge about how the human brain works, including what’s important to us and how we make decisions.

Thinking back to the stereotypes that many of the ads used, ask students how they feel about advertisers assuming such basic stereotypes about teens? Do they believe these stereotypes to be true? Are any of them offended by the stereotypes advertisers use to sell ads?

For part two of this lesson tomorrow, students will create and brainstorm a “counter-ad” meant to play off the techniques and stereotypes evident in the ads they brought in.


1. Explaining the project — 10 minutes

Using the ads students brought in and analyzed yesterday, they will spend time working in groups to prepare counter-ads that address the stereotypes or poke fun/satirize the techniques advertisers used to sell the products. Media literacy requires consumers to be active in engaging with and responding to media, and this activity is one way to do that.

Place students in groups of three, preferably around a table with drawing materials including paper, scissors, markers, and magazines to cut from. Explain that their goal is to create a team rebuttal for each ad in their group (so each group works together on each of the three ads that team members brought). This rebuttal, or counter-ad, should serve to dispel or critique the stereotypes and techniques the advertisers used.

So, for example, an ad with a blonde cheerleader looking for a low-calorie snack with an overall message about being body-conscious, might be re-imagined to show an average student picking a snack from a table full of food, with an overall message that reminds adults that students are growing and full of energy. As they brainstorm each new ad, they can draw the new ad, or describe it (if you have no artists at the table!).

The teams will ultimately present their old and new ads to the class and will explain their choice for the counter ad.

2. Group work — 30 minutes

Allow groups to work and brainstorm, and walk to room to offer feedback or provide suggestions.

3. Present — 10 minutes

Ask the group to present and explain their best counter ad to the class.