Smoking: Procedures


Deconstructing Cigarette Ads in a Counter Advertising Workshop

Frank Baker,
media educator

Recent photos showing students deconstructing tobacco ads.


Explanation of workshop– each day, we are bombarded by as many as 3000 media messages (including ads). The tobacco industry uses specific ways to reach young people via marketing and promotion. They advertise inside and outside stores, at sporting events, music concerts and in movies. 

They also place their ads in magazines, some of which your students read regularly.  This activity is designed to get them actively involved in understanding the persuasion techniques used in print ads.

Students should be seated at tables, 5 or 6 to a table.

Here is a portion of a PowerPoint that I use. ( I start with a question: where do you usually find tobacco advertised in your community?  The first slide shows a woman exiting a store, with a tobacco ad strategically placed outside; the second slide shows tobacco displayed inside a store)

Introduce concepts of how to read an ad:  introduce how to deconstruct images used in popular cigarette advertising;  discuss lifestyles portrayed

(preview the following and choose one or more as student handouts)

Deconstruction Key
(A Primer on How to Deconstruct an Ad)

Attention Getting Hooks
(Specific Techniques in Ad Persuasion)

How to Deconstruct a Print Ad

Deconstructing Print Advertisements (pdf)

Cigarette advertising hooks

Semiotic analysis of an ad

Techniques of persuasion 

The Language of persuasion

Checklist for Analyzing Print Advertisement

Advertising: Four Major Tricks

Advertising’s major appeals

How to Create Your Print Ad

Color & Its Meanings

The following magazines are known to carry tobacco ads: (Glamour, US News, Newsweek, Time, Ebony, Family Circle, Cosmopolitan, Bow Hunter, Ladies Home Journal, Hunter, Outdoor Life, Popular Mechanics, and Sports Illustrated)  Students, seated in groups, are given a full page ad from one of the magazines. You will want each group of students to have a different ad. In their groups, they should be given 3-5 minutes to talk about the words, the images, the layout, the colors, the techniques of persuasion. At the end of five minutes, one student from each group explains what his/her group found..

Introduction of Counter advertising
Ask students if they know what the phrase ‘counter advertising’ means.
Using overheads, you can show students some examples. Once students understand the purpose of counter advertising, then you can tell them they will have 15-20 minutes in order to work as a group to produce a counter ad from their original ad.

Manipulatives needed:  scissors, crayons, markers, glue stick, Scotch tape, construction paper, etc (one per table)

Students are encouraged to change their original ad (this is a team activity with all students contributing ideas: they can either alter images or words or both, or they can create an original counter ad). Students will need the most time (20 minutes or more) for the production of their “new” ad.

At the conclusion, a representative of each team is called upon to stand up and explain to the entire group how their group changed their original ad

Teachers: Using the counter ads produced by your students, locate an appropriate place at school to display their work. This may be a bulletin board, even a web site. (Parental permission may be required to post student works). Some schools have created books or calendars using student counter ad artwork.