Buy Me That: Kids and Advertising
Lesson Plan created by Frank Baker, media educator

In 1990, HBO, in a collaboration with Consumer Reports Television, aired the first of three half-hour specials about children and advertising. The programs pulled back the curtain on many of the techniques and tricks used in TV commercials. Since the programs were clearly teaching "media literacy" the programs became popular with teachers and media educators alike.  Alas, the videos are no longer available, although some libraries may still have them on the shelves. Now, here, for the first time, it is available. I have created some critical thinking questions and links to video clips so that you can teach "techniques of persuasion" and more.
Frank Baker, media educator
(Note: use of this video constitutes what the author understands to be "fair use" and "transformative use")

Link to teaching standards
NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts 
6.
Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

McRel  (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)
Language Arts, Viewing  Standard 9  Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media,  Level   II  Grade :  3-5  
7. Understands basic elements of advertising in visual media (e.g., sales approaches and techniques aimed at children, appealing elements used in memorable commercials, possible reasons for the choice of specific visual images)

Media  Standard 10 Understands the characteristics and components of the media, Level   II   Grade :   3-5  
1. Knows the main formats and characteristics of familiar media (e.g., the format of quiz shows on television: host/hostess, contestants, competition for prizes of commercial value; types of advertising such as billboards, T-shirts, or commercials; characteristics of films and magazines)

Partnership for 21st Century Skills:  English Language Arts/ICT Curriculum Map
4th grade: 
Make a record of commercials aired during Saturday morning cartoon programming. Categorize and tally such details as the kinds of products advertised, the method(s) the ad uses to attract younger viewers, the gender the ad seems to address, and estimated ages of children appearing in the ads. Select several of the ads and survey schoolmates about which ads are favorites. Analyze the survey for patterns of popular appeal. What are “patterns of popular appeal?”

Questions to consider before watching the "Buy Me That" segment:
1. What is the purpose of advertising on TV?
2. On which cable/satellite networks might you find toy commercials?
3. Who is the audience for toy ads?
4. What is the toy manufacturer hoping to accomplish by airing these spots?
5. What do you find appealing in most toy commercials?
6. Are boys/girls/both featured in most toy commercials?
7. What are the common "techniques of persuasion"?
8. Define the word deceptive. Do commercials always tell the truth?


From "Buy Me That Too: Kids' Survival Guide to TV Advertising" (1992)
"....helps children weave through the maze of television advertising by showing tricks advertisers use to fool viewers, revealing facts that ads don't provide, and by arming children with concrete tips for surviving the TV advertising blitz."

To begin: you might ask your students if they know how commercials are made (constructed). They should become familiar with the process of advertising which involves identifying the audience you want to reach; creating the message that will appeal to this audience; and positioning or placement of the message where the target audience is likely to
best see it.

Before playing the video, some background.  "Buy Me That" is hosted by comedian Jim Fyfe. In the introduction he asks the questions "can you really trust those commercials; is everything you see, really what you get?" At this point you may wish to PAUSE the video and initiate a discussion around those questions. 

Script of the Commercial: download the actual script (with embedded images from the ad); create an overhead or handout for your students, so that they can begin to understand that commercials must first be written before they are photographed and edited. You may wish to play the first video segment while the script is projected.

Jim is going to introduce the audience to the toy "TYPHOON 2" and students will see a portion of the actual commercial. PLAY THE VIDEO BUT BE PREPARED TO STOP IT EXACTLY ONE MINUTE IN. At approximately 1 minute (when Jim says "see how the Typhoon 2 zooms around that rocky maze" STOP the video).You might start a discussion here with questions like: how many of you would like to own this toy? and why?: is this toy aimed at boys or girls, or both? How do you know?

                                                            click the image to play the video
                                                        



Before playing the remaining part of the video (about 6 minutes) explain that the producers of "Buy Me That" have given the actual "Typhoon 2" toy to some children to take outside and test. In other words, does this toy perform in the real world,  the way the commercial implied it did? PLAY THE REMAINING PART OF THE VIDEO. Notice during which portion of the video your students might begin to laugh. Also, be sure to have them notice the young man who reacts after the toy fails the water glide test. He says "cause the commercial made it look so good, that you really want to buy it, but it's not good."



Questions to consider after watching the "Buy Me That" segment:
1. How has your thinking about toy commercials changed since you've seen the entire video? Do you always believe what you see?
2. In the commercial did Typhoon 2 really glide on water--or did the producers make it appear to glide on water?
3. If you were going to re-create the "glide on water" scene, how would you do it? Where would you put your camera?
4. Did you ever receive a toy that failed to live up to expectation? If so, describe what happened?
5. To whom would you write, in order to complain about a toy that failed to deliver promises made
in a commercial? ( students should consider not only WHO made the toy, but also WHO broadcast the ad)
6. Do TV networks have any obligation to ensure that advertising is truthful?
7. Which US Government agency is responsible for ensuring toy ads are not deceptive?
 

Introduce your students to some of the tricks used in many toy ads. Download Five Toy Ad Tricks To Watch Out For as originally published in Consumer Reports' Zillions magazine. You may wish to provide students with copies of these pages. Spend some time reading and reviewing each of the tricks. Students may be anxious to share with you some of their own experiences which relate to each trick.

More resources
Download this Toy Ad Analysis Worksheet  This can be used with other commercials that you might record for use in instruction.
Be sure to return to Frank Baker's Buy Me That web page for more resources.
Invite media educator Frank Baker to your school, district in-service day or conference.