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An Internet WebQuest

EVALUATING BIAS IN ADVERTISEMENTS

Introduction

According to the New Mexico Media Literacy Project, media literacy is the ability to create and analyze media. As worldwide communication continues to expand, the ability to understand both the surface and deeper meanings in media, especially in advertising, becomes more critical for students. In this WebQuest, students do some Internet research to learn about advertising strategies and to investigate how bias plays a role in advertising. They will answer some questions, based on their Internet research, about techniques for creating advertisements, as well as understand how stereotyping, as one form of bias, can be found in advertising. They will then evaluate a print advertisement by identifying the strategies used to create the message. They will also describe elements of bias that may be included in the ad.

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Task

While students are doing their Internet research, they will answer the set of questions given. Each Web site has some of the answers to the questions, but several of the questions may require information from two or more of the Web sites. Students should be able to compile information to answer the questions as they read through each Web site. As students research the answers to the questions, they will also learn about bias in advertising. They will use their research to evaluate a print ad they select.

Objectives

  • Increase media literacy
  • Investigate strategies used to create advertisements
  • Explore persuasion and bias in advertising
  • Evaluate examples of advertisements

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Time

2 days to answer the questions and evaluate a consumer product advertisement

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Process

As students progress through the list of Web sites, you may help them focus on what they need to know to answer the questions given. Several of the Web sites have links to other Web sites with relevant information. If time allows, you may want to allow students to explore subjects related to advertising and bias further.

Students will then continue with their Internet research to use the Print Advertisement Analysis worksheet to evaluate a print ad for bias.

Have students select a printed advertisement from one of these sources:

  • Local or national newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Periodicals
  • Organization newsletters

Students will use the worksheet to evaluate the information in the advertisement. They will describe the level of bias included in the ad and address what biases are specifically represented.

Have students review the rubric to understand how their worksheets will be evaluated.

If possible, allow students to share their print ad evaluations with their classmates. By describing their findings to others, students may facilitate a greater awareness of advertising techniques and increase media literacy.

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Resources

Students will use the Internet links provided to find out about elements of advertising as well as evaluating bias in advertisements. In order to demonstrate their understanding of bias in advertisements, students will evaluate a print ad. They will use a set of criteria to describe the advertising techniques employed as well as to identify bias presented. This analysis supports the enhancement of students' media literacy.

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Evaluation

You may assign 10 points to each of the 5 questions for a total of 50 possible points. Possible answers to the questions are given below. You may rate the answer to each question by the following scale: Excellent - 9-10 points; Very Good - 7-8 points; Good - 5-6 points; Satisfactory - 3-4 points; Poor - 1-2 points; and Unsatisfactory - 0 points.

These are possible answers to questions about evaluating bias in consumer product advertisements. Student answers will vary and should not reflect only these answers.

  1. One “good” strategy described by the Newspaper Association of America is to convey a message in a simple way. Even though this strategy is meant to make the message believable and honest, it may be that a situation is actually very complex. One example would be alcoholic product advertising. While the message may be simple, the more complex issue is how this type of product and its advertising affects children and teenagers.

  2. One advertising strategy is star power. Golfer Tiger Woods appears in commercials for Nike products. He is seen wearing their products and is paid to endorse Nike brands.

  3. One analogy for a magazine advertisement is that it is designed similarly to a persuasive essay. Magazine advertisements use pictures and words to support the thesis described in the ad’s promise.

  4. Stereotyping is one form of bias. It encourages people to think about others in society in overly simple ways. This can lead to the development of prejudices. Stereotyping can cause differences in people to be reduced to overly-simplified categories. It can turn ideas that are assumptions, based on a lack of information, into what is considered reality.

  5. Advertisements will reflect the perspective of the people who created them. Propaganda is a systematic plan for spreading a particular point of view. When bias is introduced into an advertisement, the information can turn into propaganda.

Evaluating the Print Advertising Analysis

Use the evaluation rubric or other means to assess each student’s worksheet. Evaluation of their written work should include self-assessment and teacher assessment. Students may want to base part of their self-assessment on how the evaluation of the print ad has increased their awareness of advertising techniques and the use of bias in advertising and other media.

Print Advertisement Analysis Points Possible*

Self-
Assessment

Teacher
Assessment
Identify and describe the subject of the advertisement and its purpose. 10    

Identify and describe the advertising techniques used in the ad's design.

10    

Describe bias included in the ad, how it is demonstrated, and why the need for including bias.

10    

Provide clear explanation for the believability of the advertisement.

10    
Provide clear explanation for agreement or disagreement with the advertisement. 10    

*Rate each category according to the following scale: Excellent 9-10 points; Very Good 7-8 points; Good 5-6 points; Satisfactory 3-4 points; Poor 1-2 points; and Unsatisfactory 0 points.

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Conclusion

Using information gathered from the Internet, students should be able to answer the questions given about techniques of advertising. They should also be more aware of how bias may play a role in the advertisements they see. After completing their research, students should apply their learning to evaluate a print advertisement, with the goal of identifying the strategies used to create the ad as well as becoming alert to the use of bias to convey a message.

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