Grades K-2, 3-5
Presenter: John Kruggel
Advertisements can tell consumers about prices and other information that may help them in the decisions they make about what to buy. But students also should know that ads are slanted by sellers to show a product in the best light. This lesson reveals to students how advertisers use words and images to make goods and services look their best. To protect consumers and make sure that competition among sellers is fair in the marketplace, the federal government requires that factual claims in ads be backed up with proof. Still, it is usually okay for sellers to talk only about the positives and ignore the negatives of what they are selling. Another common trick is to use exaggerated claims called “puffery.” It is up to the consumers to separate factual claims from opinions and exaggerations. This lesson challenges students to create a set of tips that could help consumers to make this distinction. Being able to tell the difference between factual claims and puffery or opinions can help consumers to make smart choices and avoid market disappointments.
Hold up a popular fiction book that your students probably have read–perhaps one of the Harry Potter novels. Ask the students:
[NOTE: If necessary, explain that works of non-fiction are intended to give a true account of something while works of fiction are not intended to tell the literal truth. Fiction comes from someone’s imagination.]
Explain that advertising, like books, contains words and images. Some of the words and images in advertising may be true, while others are fiction.
Activity 1: Fact or Opinion?
The students are told that sellers make a variety of claims in advertisements; some claims are factual and some are statements of opinion. Factual claims are statements that can be proven true or false. The following statements are provided as examples of factual claims.
Opinions are statements based on a belief or value. For example:
The difference between fact and opinion is explained. The students are then asked to read 10 advertising claims and tell whether each asserts a factual claim or an opinion.
At the conclusion of the activity, the students are asked these questions and told to be ready to discuss their answers.
Activity 2: Packages Are Advertising, Too!
The students learn that packaging is a form of advertising. Packages are designed to catch our attention as we walk down store aisles. They are a seller’s last chance to convince us to buy a particular product rather than the one next to it.
The students complete the interactive activity What’s in the Shopping Bag? They learn how advertisers use words and images on packages to make their products seem great.
Discuss student responses to the THINK ABOUT IT questions in Activity 1.
[TEACHER BACKGROUND: The major responsibility for government regulation of advertising rests with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). FTC rules permit a practice known in the trade as “puffery.” Puffing is exaggerating the features, qualities or benefits of a product by claiming that it is “the best” or “the greatest.” However, the FTC also requires advertisers to make available to consumers the data on which all factual claims are made. If a business cannot provide such proof, the FTC may find the advertisement misleading and the advertiser guilty of deception. The FTC has the power to fine the sponsor, stop the ad and order the sponsor to issue corrections. Complaints should be sent to the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580. Toll-Free: 1-877-FTC-HELP. Web: https://www.ftc.gov/ .
Recognizing that false advertising can harm businesses as well as consumers, advertisers have imposed voluntary standards upon themselves. In 1971 several advertising organizations joined forces with the Council of Better Business Bureaus to establish a procedure to focus on complaints about advertising. These complaints are examined by the National Advertising Review Council. The Council consists of representatives of advertisers, advertising agencies and the general public. In 1974, the same organizations created the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) to promote responsible children's advertising. Generally, CARU reviews advertising directed to children under 12 years of age. Guidelines for children’s advertising are posted on CARU’s Web site in an article named Self Regulatory Programs for Children's Advertising . Complaints concerning children’s advertising should be sent to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., 70 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018.]
Assessment is based on the three pieces of advice the students offer to help people avoid being misled by advertising.
Consider consolidating the students' tips into a class tip sheet that the students could use in their own efforts to separate fact from opinion and exaggeration in advertising.
Grades K-2, 3-5
Presenter: John Kruggel
Grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8