Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Teaching Advertising Part 4: Infomercials!

This is part 4 of my Teaching for Advertising thread. To view previous posts click here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Infomercials are AMAZING for teaching the visual and verbal language of advertising. They're over the top, repetitive (repetition, rule of 3!) and easy to understand. I like to use infomercials to teach advertising to lower English language learners because there are lots of visual aids but the higher level students can also be challenged. Especially when you create infomercials in class.

A reading that I had my year 9's in New Zealand read as well as my grade 12 in China was Mike Consol's "What infomercials teach us about persuasion" post. This was an easy to read article that sums up the infomercial structure and I thought it was nicely communicated through his concise bullet points of the 3 stages of infomercials - which are:
"1. Set forth the problem. 
2. Explain the solution. 
3. Demonstrate how your product or service provides the solution."

Make sure you give it a read and come up with some comprehension questions for class discussion or end of class (cloze) reflection. After reading and discussing the article, watch an infomercial in class and have students identify whether the infomercial follows the 3 stages mentioned. It usually does. 

Next, we watched some infomercials. There are some included already in the PPT of the first post of this thread. My favorite for a couple years now has been 'Jiffy Fries'. Food is always a winner and if you're teaching the concepts of Pathos, Ethos and Logos - this commercial can cover all three! 

Some key points of discussion:

  • What are the colors used repetitively in this advert? 
  • Why do we think these colors are used?

Red - color of appetite, notice most fast food places have the color red. Also, the color for 'STOP', grabs the viewer's attention, STOP now and make some fries. It's a happy warm color, bright/vibrant in the kitchen. One student mentioned how tomato sauce/ketchup always goes with fries, so this was a good color choice for the product also...

  • What words are repeated throughout the commercial? 
  • Why do we think these words are important to hear again and again?
  • What about the product name itself - what does 'Jiffy' mean?
Jiffy - slang for quickly "in a jiffy" - the product makes french fries quickly. Perfect for a snack. Easy to make at home...

  • What symbols are used in the infomercial? 
  • Why are they being used?
  • What does the black and white filter indicate? 
  • Why does the commercial go from black and white to color? What does this symbolize?
There's a large 'X' that is shown when the commercial starts talking about deep frying fries with oil. And the commercial is black and white, showing someone cooking fries with oil. As soon as jiffy fries are introduced, the screen is in color. Discuss with students the meaning behind the 'X' symbol and color change. 
 - Also relates to Mike Consol's article about introducing a Problem, then Solution...etc. 

There are so many things to discuss about the advert and I didn't really get to the language features - but they occur as well. Alliteration, rule of 3, onomatopoeia, repetition, colloquialism, imperative...etc. 

You can make this discussion more of an activity by writing up some of these questions on the board and ask students to take notes, attempting to answer these questions and sharing as a class. I found that the students were able to observe so much as we had already studied visual and verbal language features prior. 

Some other infomercials I recommend are:

These all have the great problem, solution, demonstration aspects that the article relates too. And they all have a variety of verbal and visual features. They are great to study. If you have the opportunity to get laptops in the classroom, I recommend asking students in groups to watch one infomercial together and present their findings to the class or in a short essay format to submit to you.


After watching and analyzing infomercials that already exist it's a perfect time for students to start creating their own infomercials. I advise you to ask students to work in pairs or threes to write an infomercial script of their own and present it to the class. Give them a list of criteria such as:

  • Includes at least 3 language features /3
  • Provides at least 1 visual aid either by drawing (logo, etc) or props /2
  • Presents a problem, solution and demonstration /5
  • Everyone in the group presents /4
  • An expert is used to advertise the product at some point - Ethos concept /2
  • Technical jargon or statistics are employed to relate to the Logos concept /2
  • When questioned after presenting a clear explanation of the Pathos concept is given, in relation to your chosen persuasive techniques throughout (the emotions) /2
  • Bonus points for outstanding creativity and organization /5
Total out of 25 : ___

I would write up something like that for a double period or spread it over a few classes in a week if you'd like them to submit the written script as well. 

I hope you can use this for your advertising unit! Happy Teaching :)

Here's a cool info-graphic on America's top infomercial products: Click here to enlarge. 

Monday, 3 September 2018

Teaching Advertising Part 3: Reviewing Language Features & Creating Ads of Their Own

This is part 3 of my Teaching Advertising Posts, click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

So, after you have covered some language features and visual features of print and video advertising as discussed in previous posts, it's good to start creating adverts so that students can get into their own ideas of what makes an effective advert.

Before I dive into my lessons - I'd also like to add that there are a bunch of great youtube clips that feature movie or tv series characters playing 'ad men/women'. My students felt really inspired when I told them that they could go for a career in advertising. I showed them this clip to show how an advertising agency would present to companies who want advert campaigns. Take a look:

Nike: No Games...

I also found this scene from 'Sweet November' - it's definitely more mature as there are sexual references, save it for your senior classes. But I like how they show more of how presentations are conducted with visuals, etc. Watch every video before you play it - a rule. I would stop this one at 2 minutes.

It's a HOT dog:

Group Lesson: Becoming 'Ad Men & Women'

A hit lesson was when I did rotational group work with my grade 12. I got some paper lunch bags, numbered them for easy rotational organization (lol) and within each bag were two envelopes. The first envelope had inside it, instructions for an advert that they had to create as a group. These instructions included the use of a language feature(s) commonly used in advertising. In the second envelope there was a bunch of cards with random products or services written on them.

They had to dip their hand in the envelope without looking and choose 1 card which would be the product or service they had to advertise. This was great to keep group work different from others, and it added some fun as they had to stick to what they drew from the envelope no matter how challenging. And if you didn't know already - students love lucky dips. Thus, I gave about 10- 15 mins for each rotation and every group completed 4 separate adverts by the end of class. I didn't want them to focus too much on art work, the writing was the most important.

Ok, so here is the preview of the activities - but you can download the editable word document for FREE from my TeachersPayTeachers store.

The instructions give a brief review of the language feature with examples so that students understand the feature they're being asked to implement.

You'll need 4 sets of the cards for each activity, but I thought, why don't I be kind and do that for you, so download these sets here: Click!  Just cut them out and put them in the appropriate envelopes. 

I really hope this group work inspires you in your class. The students really enjoyed working together and the following lesson was spent presenting their group adverts to the class. I marked them beforehand and gave out awards (candy) for the best advert per category - categories correspond to the instructions cards ( Rule Of 3, Figurative Language, Pronouns and Repetition).

Happy Teaching! Stay tuned for my next post which will have the mid-term exam papers that you can use for your mid-term, final, quiz or assignments. :)