Although I would love to dedicate a good chunk of time to looking at advertising and the power of the media with my students, as I think the importance of young people being critical consumers is unparalleled, unfortunately timing does not allow for it. That said, I am able to spend a couple lessons on the subject, especially as students are sometimes asked to analyze and answer questions about a print ad in exams.
I began by talking to them about the power of the media in its various forms and why it is important for them – impressionable young people living in a world that is increasingly image-driven – to be aware that much of what they see on TV, in magazines, movies, music videos and in the world of celebrities, is not real. From there we moved on to a discussion on advertising, and techniques advertisers use to draw potential consumers in and to attracted them to their product. We talked about how through the use of images, colour, hyperbolic superlatives (!!), slogans, music, celebrity endorsement, branding and fonts tailored to the target audience, advertisers try to evoke an emotional response in consumers, hoping to convince them that their lives, or they as a person, will be better with this product in their lives.
Students were asked to bring in print adverts torn out of magazines, which we examined and deconstructed as a class, while discussing the methods and techniques used in each ad campaign.
As always, it is interesting to see how socialization and social location affect one’s interpretation and understanding of something and how it relates to their own lives. When asked to name some popular slogans – the first three given were ‘Keep walking’ (Johnny Walker), ‘Yebo Gogo’ (Vodacom), and ‘The Bus for Us’ (Golden Arrow, a public transport bus service provider). My most memorable takeaway from our discussion however, was when a timid young man raised his hand.
‘Miss, I can think of an example of how advertiser trick us,’ he said.
Encouraged by and excited about what he was going to say I urged him to continue.
‘Well Miss, like on TV, when they are advertising fridges, they always show the fridge full of food. But when you go to buy the fridge Miss, there’s never any food in the fridge, it’s just an empty fridge. That’s a trick, right?’