The Fine Art of Persuasion: Television and Advertising

 < PALEYEDUCATION : Online Classes

Grades 5–12

Class Description

In an effort to aid at-home learning, we are making selected media from this typically on-site class available here online, including pre-viewing focus questions and post-viewing discussion questions.

What is advertising, what is its goal, and what are its methods? How do images and sounds combine to make a point or sell a product, and how have these changed over time? Through careful analysis, students will discover the persuasive techniques developed to capture a viewer's attention in order to promote a product or idea.

All classes are interactive, with guided discussion designed to encourage active observation and critical thinking.

Advertising is one of the best examples of persuasive writing that we encounter in our everyday lives. By closely studying the advertising we come into contact with, we can become better informed consumers and improve our own persuasive writing and speaking skills. One exercise that can be really valuable is to compare and contrast product advertising over time. What changes? What remains the same? What can this tell us about the evolution of the consumer and product relationship?

As you watch all three commercials, compare the similarities and differences in three things in particular: the music, the information you get about the product, and who you think the target audience is (see Vocabulary).



As a group, provide definitions for the following words and concepts, which will be referenced during the class.

ADVERTISING: The communication of information through various media that is persuasive in nature, about products, services, or ideas, and is usually paid for by identified sponsors.

BRAND: A unique and identifiable symbol, association, name, or trademark that serves to differentiate competing products or services.

JINGLE: A short, catchy song, usually mentioning a brand or product benefit, used in a commercial.

LOGO: A design of characters and/or graphics used to identify a company.

MEDIA/MEDIUM: Forms of public communication (such as newspaper, radio, television, Internet, direct mail, and billboards) that are designed to reach large numbers of people.

SLOGAN: A memorable phrase that says something positive about a product or idea.

TARGET AUDIENCE: A specified audience or demographic for which an advertising message is designed. The members of a target audience often share certain characteristics, such as age, gender, ethnicity, values, or lifestyle.


Ad: US Keds (1951)

Pre-Viewing Focus: As you watch, try to remember as much information as you can about the product you see featured.

Post-Viewing Discussion Questions:
●    Describe how this advertisement starts.
●    Where are we, who do we meet, and what is happening?  
●    What product is being sold and what information do you learn about it?  
●    Who do you think the target audience is for this product and what did you see and hear to let you know that?
●    Be as specific as possible. Think closely about who is and is not featured in the ad.
●    Describe the music you hear during the commercial. What is the tone of the music?  
●    What information do we learn through the song? What advertising technique are they using? (see Vocabulary)

Tools: Jingle, Mascot
Techniques: Hard Sell (emphasizing why this is a great product that will improve your life)
Takeaway: Target Audience for Sneakers in the 1950s (white, suburban, boys and parents)


Ad: Nike Air (1988)

Pre-Viewing Focus: Compare this commercial to the previous Keds commercial with your attention to the music, the information about the product, and the target audience.

Post-Viewing Discussion Questions:
●    Summarize. Where are we, who do we meet, and what is happening in this ad?
●    What did you learn about this product? Do you get any specific details like in the Keds ad or is it more unclear?
●    Describe the music. What kind of mood does it set? Why do you think they chose this kind of music?  How does it compare to the music in the Keds ad?
●    Who do you see in the commercial? Describe the kids and what we see them doing.
●    How do they compare to the Keds kids?
●    Who do you think Nike’s target audience is and how do you know from what you see and hear?
●    What is the Nike slogan? What message do you think the slogan sends?

Tools: Dramatic Music (Mozart’s Requiem), Urban Setting, Diverse Characters, Slogan
Techniques: Emotional Appeal, “Cool” Factor, Bandwagon
Takeaway: Focus is solely on emotions, lifestyle, and attitude. Advertising evolving away from the “hard sell” and into creating enviable, cool, aspirational style, consumer focused.


Ad: “Freestyle” (2001)

Pre-Viewing Focus Question: What persuasive techniques are being used in this last advertisement to attract your attention?

Post-Viewing Discussion Questions:
●    Summarize. What happens in this ad?
●    Who appears in the ad? What are they doing?
●    Describe the music. How does it make you feel?
●    What “instruments” are used to create the music?
●    What do you learn about this product as you watch? Is the information explicit or implied?
●    Who do you think the target audience for this ad is? How do you know from what you see and hear?
●    How is this ad (and the previous ad) using the “cool” factor?
●    What demographic or audience do you think this technique works best on and why?
●    How does this ad compare to the other sneaker ads above?
●    Which one of the three ads is your favorite and why?

Tools: Music (by Afrika Bambaataa), Dance/Choreography (by Savion Glover), Logo
Techniques: “Cool” Factor, Celebrity Endorsement (Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace), Music Video Style (This ad was originally created as a 2.5 minute music video and played on MTV during a block of music videos).
Takeaway: Ultimately how is one type of product sold differently over the course of fifty years depending on tools and techniques.

More information about this iconic Nike ad.

More information about how the human brain responds to watching advertisements.

The Secret Psychology of Sneaker Color


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