When I was in fifth grade, Mr. Wiesel taught several classes where we talked about commercial advertisements. Today, the phrase “commercial advertisements” is often shortened to the terms “commercials” or “ads”. For myself and the rest of my class, it was an eye-opener. Suddenly we realized we were being manipulated by radio, television and print, but now we were armed with the tools to understand how we were being manipulated. It was revolutionary to my young mind, and made me realize that what I buy should be based on research and evaluation, and while emotion and sentiment do play a part, it should not be the defining reason for buying a product. At Kids Recycle! part of our mission is help each other understand the things that influence us, and how to recognize whether the influence is beneficial or harmful.

Let’s take a closer look at enticement methods used by famous ad agencies, and why they work.

Bandwagon

Everybody’s doing it. Why don’t you do it too? A perfect example is the “Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?” series of commercials. You’ll be part of the In Crowd, right? It is extremely unlikely that purchasing a fizzy flavored sugar water is going to make you more acceptable to the majority of humanity, yet the tune is catchy, and this is still a popular method for trying to get people to buy products. It’s also especially popular for politicians.

Celebrity Endorsement

I’m a popular person. If you buy this product I’m endorsing, you’ll become a popular person. You’ll never meet me, nor will I ever know that you’ve bought what I’m endorsing, but I’m getting paid to endorse this product, so you should buy it. Oprah’s book club was a perfect example of a celebrity endorsement that made the careers of several relatively unknown authors. A great example celebrity endorsement commercial:


Expert Testimonial

Experts agree, you should buy this product. This is the one commercial type that may have some merit. If four out of five dentists really do suggest trident, maybe it’s not a bad chewing gum. But who performed the study? If the study was paid for by Trident, is it anything more than a foregone conclusion that the study will “prove” the results they want? Are there any non-partisan studies that come to alternative conclusions?

Emotional Manipulation

This is probably one of most insidious forms of advertisement. They’re going not for your brain, but for your gut. Coke’s “Real Thing” ad was a perfect example of selling fizzy flavored sugar water by making people feel all warm and cozy inside. Let me be clear how successful this advertisement was… In Mrs. Kobel’s fourth grade class, when this commercial first came out, we were required to sing two patriotic songs every morning after the Pledge of Allegiance. As often as not that fall, “It’s the real thing” was one of the songs that was allowed to be sung, along with songs like “If I had a hammer” and “My Country Tis of Thee”. It was integral in the mind of fourth-graders and other children during that era of American history. And we drank plenty of Coke.

It gets worse though. The “Crying Indian” commercial from 1971 was one of the most influential ad campaigns of that era. It brought the concept of “not littering” to the forefront of many young impressionable minds. But it also did something even more clever. It laid the blame of pollution on the people who bought the styrofoam cups rather than the people who designed and produced them. Nobody even questioned that maybe it would be better to use compostable cups, because styrofoam was cheaper. So many things were just terribly wrong about this ad campaign, from today’s political correctness standpoint, that I cannot mention them all here.

All of this was lost on us kids who were celebrating the first ever “Earth Day” that year. Guilt by Misdirection became part of the arsenal of commercial advertisement with this ad.

Repetition

This is supposed to be an effective method for advertising. When the Head On commercials started airing, they were so obnoxious I was sure I would never purchase the product. I never have. I suspect this is only effective under the right circumstances, especially with politicians. The phrase “No collusion, no obstruction” should be a familiar political meme for most of us.

There are many other types of advertising gimmicks. If you’re a teacher, I’m pretty sure you know your pupils will understand these concepts if you explain them carefully. Why not prepare our kids to face the kinds of advertising and political manipulation they’ll experience throughout their lives?

Photo by Serenity Mitchell on Unsplash

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