media literacy and targeted advertising

Media Literacy: Empower Kids to Decode Targeted Advertising

In today’s connected world, advertising is everywhere, aiming to grab our attention and spark our interest in different products and services. Companies employ diverse media to convey their messages, ranging from traditional avenues like billboards, magazines, and radio to the dynamic landscape of digital platforms such as emails, social media, and websites. The goal remains unchanged: to create a compelling narrative that informs and persuades consumers to embrace what is being offered. 

Teens spend a lot of time on platforms like Facebook and YouTube, where ads can influence what they buy. It could be those tempting chips endorsed by their favorite actor, even if they know it’s not the healthiest choice! As teachers, we need to include media literacy as an integral part of students’ education to help them understand advertising tactics and the psychology behind featured ads. 

Decode Targeted Advertising 

TechnoAd is a TechnoKids course that builds digital marketing skills. It begins with an activity that helps students understand the impact of target advertising in their daily lives.

Have a look at Media Exposure Calculator for Students. This is an excerpt from TechnoAd. The activity is called “You Are a Target!” Students consider all the media sources that they encounter daily, and then calculate an estimation of the massive amount of advertising that they are exposed to in a lifetime.

media exposure calculator small
Students estimate their exposure to online ads.

Technology That Tracks Activities 

Not only are young people exposed to media and constant ads, but they should also be aware of how digital channels track user information. To build media literacy, students should also be mindful of how social media activity, cookies, and GPS data, and converge to create a personalized online experience.

Here’s an example: 

Have you ever wondered why you suddenly find yourself bombarded with sports shoe ads after searching for a pair of ‘sports shoes’ online? The answer lies in the intricate web of cookies (bits of information stored on your device), GPS data that pinpoints your location, and the surveillance of your social media activities. Together, these elements form the backbone of targeted advertising, allowing companies to tailor their promotions based on your specific interests and preferences. 

Hidden Messages in Advertising 

It’s not just chance that an advertisement featuring a teenager triumphantly winning a race in a specific jersey and subsequently gaining popularity among friends, tends to have a remarkable impact and strong recall among teenagers.

Ads go beyond simply listing the benefits of a product. Instead, they subtly tap into people’s desires for happiness and success. Essentially, these ads are more than just information – they cleverly connect with teenagers’ dreams, linking the product with their need for happiness and social acceptance.

Have students watch and collect ads that have a hidden message. This shampoo ad can be a starting point:

Afterwards, have students list the features in the ads about the product benefits and figure out the hidden messages.

Video Production Lessons to Promote Media Literacy

Dive into the world of video production using Blender, an exceptional and free online graphics tool. In the TechnoAd course, each student crafts a unique ad. But collaboration comes first. Together, students develop storyboards, plan scenes, and film as part of the media literacy lesson plan. They make decisions on actions, characters, props, and camera positions collectively. Following group filming, they each use Blender to refine the vision and produce their own unique advertisement.

TechnoAd curriculum fosters media literacy by:

  • Raising awareness of differentiating between ads that promote well-being from those with misleading claims
  • Examining the impact of celebrity endorsements on brand perception
  • Cultivating critical thinking skills for analyzing ads, encouraging students to question and interpret messages
  • Building an understanding of the influence of peer pressure and trending commercials, initiating conversations on how these factors shape preferences and decisions
  • Setting an example for a healthy digital learning environment by reducing screen time, fostering open Q&A, and emphasizing online safety
  • Integrating practical video production experiences and advertising insights
  • Implementing hands-on learning to better understand real-world content and advertising strategies
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