Grade 3-5, 6-8

Did You Get the Message?

Time: 45 mins,
Updated: January 10 2024,


Students will be able to:

  • Identify different advertising strategies.
  • Explain how advertisers use incentives to influence consumer behavior.

In this economic lesson, students will view TV ads to learn advertising incentives and strategies.



Ask the students what types of programs they like to watch on television. Point out that some of the programs they watch have breaks for advertisements for goods and services.
Discuss the following questions:

  1. What kinds of goods and services are advertised during these breaks? (Various goods and services will be identified)
  2. What do these goods and services have in common? (They are things that young people want to experience and purchase.)
  3. Why do you think these products are advertised? (Advertisers want viewers—young people in this case—to know about the products and buy/purchase them.)

Tell students that businesses know consumers have money to spend, and they advertise their goods and services so consumers will want to buy them.


Explain to the students that this lesson will help them investigate how advertising gets consumer’s attention and how it tries to influence their buying decisions.
Show students the Puffin Coca-Cola commercial.
Use the following questions to review the video:

  1. How did the advertiser get your attention? (music, humor, sharp images.)
  2. The Puffin’s beak was used as what tool? [bottle opener]
  3. Why do you think no spoken words were used in this commercial? (Animals can’t talk, no words were needed, the characters acted out the message.) Ask students what they liked about it.
  4. Coca-Cola has used polar bears in their advertisements during winter and the Christmas holidays for years.   Why would they use polar bears at this time of year?  (Polar bears live in snowy and cold climates.   They are secular symbols that do not depict a particular holiday but can subliminally make a consumer think of Christmas (North Pole)

Explain that the creator of the advertisement hoped a funny television commercial would get consumers to see how the struggle to open a beverage bottle is worth the effort. Explain that humor is just one of many techniques advertisers use to get people to pay attention to their commercials. Some ads feature a movie star, athlete or cartoon character, while others use popular music, sound effects, and bright colors as attention-getters. Also, words such as “new,” “amazing” or “free” may be used to grab their attention.
Show students the Puffin Coca-Cola commercial again, asking them to pay attention to the effort the puffin puts into opening the bottle. Explain that help from the polar bears helped it succeed. Ask why that image might make them want to drink Coca-Cola.  Using the PowerPoint – Advertising Strategies,  explain to the students that businesses use a variety of strategies or “tricks” to get consumers’ attention, including:

  • Famous people: You already know that some advertisers use famous people to grab your attention. Advertisers also think you will want to buy a product because it is associated with or recommended by a famous person. Winning athletes are often used to promote sports clothing and equipment. A movie star might be shown driving a new car. Popular musicians are common in soft drink commercials.
  • Experts: You have probably seen an ad where a dentist or an actor playing a dentist tells you which toothpaste to use. Other commercials claim most doctors prefer one medicine to other medicines. Advertisers think you are more likely to trust a message delivered by an expert.
  • Ordinary people: Have you ever seen an ad in which ordinary people tell why they liked a movie as they were leaving the theater? Or an ad featuring a mom who tells how clean a laundry detergent got her family’s dirty clothes? Advertisers know that some people are more likely to believe a message when “regular” people are the messengers.
  • Music, sound effects, color, and images: Popular music, special sounds, colors, or images are often associated with goods or services. One example is the Nike “swoosh” that also serves as the company’s logo. You have probably seen it on shoes, clothing, and other Nike products and in their advertising. Another example is the color pink which is used to help promote products related to breast cancer. Advertisers like to use something that triggers your mind to automatically think of them or their products when you see or hear it.
  • Funny or emotional stories: Advertisers like to connect with your emotions. If their commercial can make you laugh or feel some other emotion, it can motivate you to buy their goods or services. Some advertisers might even use fear or a sad story as an incentive. Focusing on your emotions can be a powerful strategy.
  • Words and Claims: The exact wording of an advertisement or the claims of what the product will do can influence you to buy certain products. For example, if you want to be a supermodel, a photographer might “guarantee” you a modeling contract if you let him take your photos. The federal government, however, requires advertisers make such claims to have proof of their results or guarantees. Also, results can be monetary or non-monetary. The puffin video had non-monetary outcomes (getting to drink a Coke). An advertisement announcing a lower price or special deal that saves you money would be monetary. Whatever words are used, advertisers are aware of their potential impact on your decision to buy their goods or service.

Remind students that advertisers want their advertisements to create a positive image for the businesses they represent and for their products. An ad would not be successful if it told the bad stuff. (Note: some students may ask about ads for prescription drugs that identify the benefits and the potential problems of taking them; these ads are government regulated to ensure they provide accurate information about claims or results.)

Review the discussion by showing students the Kohl’s Spring Into Action Commercial. Ask the following questions:

  1. Who would might be the target audience for this commercial? (Kohl’s customers, people who wear clothes)
  2. How does this commercial try to grab the attention of young people? (use of music, girl is the main “character”,  playing hop-scotch – a kid’s game )
  3. How does this same commercial try to grab the attention of adults? (use of music,  emotions – feeling like a kid again, adults thinking back to when they were kids)
  4. Why do you think the business advertises this product? (Kohl’s wants consumers to feel good when they think of their store and to buy their product.)
  5. What strategies were used in this commercial? (ordinary people, music, emotional story,  non-monetary incentive)
  6. How do the strategies used in this video compare with the ones used in the Coca-Cola ad? (Answers will vary, but both use emotions and non-monetary incentives.)

Group Activity

Put students in small groups, telling them they now have the opportunity to help a company make some decisions about their advertising strategies. Distribute copies of Delivering the Message and review the instructions with them. You may want to assign them a product or allow them to choose the good or service they want to advertise. After students have completed the assignment, have them share some of their strategies with the rest of the class. (Answers will vary.)

Individual Activity

Distribute the TV Advertising Log to students. Instruct them to view six television commercials targeting young people, and identify the following: the company or organization, the good or service, the strategy used, and the message the commercial is sending you about what to buy, do, or think. Students should also determine what commercial they thought was the best and the reason for their choice. (Note: You may want to prerecord a set of commercials to use in class, use these ads 2022 Super Bowl Commerical collection, or assign this worksheet as homework.) Debrief the activity by asking students to share what they liked about the commercials.


1) Have students use their completed TV Advertisement Logs to assess this lesson with the following tasks:

  • Select one advertisement on your log and explain how the strategy used was effective or appropriate for the product.
  • Put a $ by the commercials using monetary incentives to sell the product advertised.
  • Put an X by the commercials using non-monetary incentives to sell the product advertised.

2) Have students watch a series of videos and complete a chart using this activity   Advertising Strategies assignment


Activity 1

Put students in small groups and challenge them to prepare a television or print advertisement promoting one of their favorite books. Remind them to use at least on the strategies they learned in this lesson. If using a print advertisement, have them identify where and how they would use to reach their intended audience. Explain that the location of the advertisement abd the intended audience would affect its content. (For example, an advertisement in a parent’s magazine/web site might be different from an advertisement in a children’s magazine/web site. Also a magazine/web site ad would be different from an ad posted on a local billboard on the highway. Have groups present their ads to the class, and have the class provide feedback on them.

Activity 2

Explain to the students that economists do not all agree about the impact of advertising. Some economists credit advertising with increasing consumer demand and helping the economy grow. As businesses get more sales, they are often able to reduce their per-unit production costs. Consumers benefit if businesses pass on these savings as lower prices. Other economists, however, claim that advertising is wasteful. They argue that the cost of advertising adds to the cost of goods, and that most advertising simply encourages consumers to buy one brand rather than another. Ask students which side of this argument they think is most accurate. Have them write at least three statements supporting their opinion.