Chapter 6: 21st-century media and issues

6.3.2 Media literacy in commercials (synthesis)


English 102, September 2020

In today’s society it has become an everyday thing to see commercials and advertisements because of all the technological advancements that have been made throughout the past few years. Speaking from personal experience, I see some sort of advertisement that is trying to persuade me to buy something almost every single day. I think almost everyone else can also agree that they see advertisements around them as well on a daily basis. Whether it is a sponsored ad on some sort of social media, such as Instagram, or it is a billboard that you see driving on the highway, businesses are constantly trying to persuade people to buy their products. Therefore, media literacy is in everyday activities even if someone doesn’t realize it. This goes to show how important it is for people to have the knowledge and understanding of what businesses are trying to persuade people to do with these advertisements. Going from this, commercials play a huge role in today’s world and people need to be able to have media literacy to understand what they are trying to present to the public.

Because of the vast ever-changing world, businesses in the economy are constantly trying to make a profit and connect with the public by using commercials. There have been multiple studies that have been researched on how people are affected by commercials. In this specific research study, that is discussed in the article “Teaching Media Literacy Skills About Commercials: A Comparative Analysis of Media Literacy Instruction,”, written by Christina Love, eighth grade kids’ attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge about commercials were studied (Love,3). Those who were taught media-related terms and did the activities that helped them be aware of certain things within media literacy were in the end able to recognize when commercials use selling techniques, target their specific audience, and use social values along with stereotypes (Love,4). Later on, the article goes on to discuss how the findings within the research showed obstacles faced by the participants when learning media literacy. However, the first idea addressed is the influence commercials have on people. The media has an obvious and strong effect on how humans think and act. The study specifically refers to children being exposed to a wide variety of messages that are addressed by commercials (Love, 8). Throughout the study the researchers had to study the problems faced with media literacy education, the influence of commercials, the reasoning behind why the subjects were influenced, and the limitations that they found in their research(Love, 12). Before discussing the actual research done, the background of the problem is addressed, and the media literacy instruction is the first part of understanding someone who is media literate (Love 12). A media literate person is able to recognize the purpose of the commercial that is being shown and the message that is addressed. They are also able to tell what specific group the ad is trying to target and how the values in the advertisement are able to influence the viewer. They are also able to detect the different techniques and features that are used when designing the advertisements and how they are able to present an emotional appeal to the viewer that causes them to connect with the advertisement(Love 13). Recognizing that children see many commercials on television in a day is important when understanding how they are also influenced by these advertisements that they see on a daily basis. Because advertisements are played so often children are shown to be able to recognize brand names and logos. This is what advertisers want to happen. Their goal is to overplay these advertisements repeatedly so that they can be easily memorized by the viewers (Love 15). Their hope of overplaying these advertisements is so that they can later remember them in their adult lives. All commercials are constructed very carefully and are played repeatedly so that they can be easily remembered and are able to target a specific audience (Love 16). Overall, media literacy is crucial for understanding the point of what advertisements are trying to get across to viewers and how they target certain audiences to try and persuade them. Without media literacy it is easy for the viewers to be easily taken advantage of and influenced by the advertisers. This article isn’t the only one that discusses the influence that commercials have on children and later on in their lives.

Another article that addresses a study done to show the relationship between children’s advertisement literacy and how they are changed by commercials is “Development and Testing of the Advertising Literacy Activation Task: an Indirect Measurement Instrument for Children aged 7-13 years old”. It is important to recognize how children are affected by the things around them. Along with this, media literacy and knowledge about commercials and what they are trying to do for the viewers is important for children to have an understanding of. Throughout this article the study was aimed to “assess children’s advertising literacy activation” (Hoek, Rozendaal, van Schie & Moniek 2). Throughout the article it talks about how there were multiple studies done to research the specific things that go along with advertisement literacy, such as analyzing different types of media and how they were able to interpret them (Hoek, Rozendaal, van Schie & Moniek 2). One of the many things discussed about this topic is how right it is for commercials to be target younger children. Because of their lack of knowledge of commercials and advertising literacy they are more prone to be affected by the effects that commercials have on people. Compared to adults, children have less experience and knowledge of how advertisements are made to target people and the effects that they have. There are many concepts that go into how people are able to understand and interpret advertisements. One of them being “conceptual advertising literacy”, which is how someone’s knowledge develops throughout their life due to the more experiences that they have (Hoek, Rozendaal, van Schie & Moniek 3). Because of this their beliefs change which causes the advertisers to change their aim and persuasive techniques. The overall results of the study showed that by being taught about advertising literacy before shown an commercial, children with the knowledge had different attitudes and were able to notice different techniques used by the advertisers than those that had no knowledge on advertising literacy (Hoek, Rozendaal, van Schie & Moniek 8). Along with this article, there are others that discuss how important it is to be educated in media literacy and the effects that commercials have on other people.

There are other forms of advertising that aren’t so direct as commercials are. One of them being using video creators or other social media influencers, that young kids look up to and admire, to promote a product. Because of the large use of social media in today’s society, younger teens are often persuaded to follow these influencers. They are often seen as being “trendsetters” because of how popular they are (Sophia van Dam & Eva A. van Reijmersdal 1). These video influencers are sponsored by certain businesses to show off their brand and promote it. They are indirectly targeting teens to buy their product. Today’s adolescence thinks that because this highly respected and valued person that they don’t even know is promoting a certain product that means that they should follow them and get that product. A lot of stores do this to promote their clotheslines. Viewers often perceive the influencers that they watch as their friends and develop an attachment to them (Sophia van Dam & Eva A. van Reijmersdal 3). The article “Insights in Adolescents’ Advertising Literacy, Perceptions and Responses Regarding Sponsored Influencer Veidos and Disclosures” discusses how in order to “empower adolescents and help them understand the persuasive nature of sponsored influencers videos” it is crucial for them to have an understanding of advertising literacy within the videos (Sophia van Dam & Eva A. van Reijmersdal 2). In the study that is discussed in the article the participants were shown a video of a popular influencer that was sponsored by Doritos to promote their brand (Sophia van Dam & Eva A. van Reijmersdal 6). After the video the participants’ attitudes and moral judgments were observed (Sophia van Dam & Eva A. van Reijmersdal 8). Overall, they found that with advertising literacy teens are able to form their own opinion on a brand rather than just following and automatically agreeing with a certain social media influencer that they look up to and admire.

Throughout all three of these articles the main point that is discussed is how advertisements are affecting youngers kids’ actions and attitudes towards specific products. All three seem to come to the conclusion that it is crucial for adolescents to be informed and have an understanding of advertising literacy. Along with this the three articles discussed above also relate to Gee’s “What is Literacy”. Gee talks about “discourses” and “identity kits”. These relate to advertising literacy because teens are their own “discourse” and are expected to act and think a certain way (Gee 14). Their “identity kit” impacts how they are supposed to dress within their “discourse” (Gee 14). Advertisements can take advantage of this by persuading them to buy their “cool” or “trendy” product. Gee also talks about “Secondary Discourses” (Gee 15). When teens are taught more about advertising literacy, they are acquiring the skill of how to recognize what the advertisement is trying to get them to do. Along with this within the “secondary discourse” they are able to see who the advertisers are trying to target with the techniques they use within their commercial or indirect advertisement. Therefore, it is important for younger kids to have advertising and media literacy in todays’ society because they are exposed to everyday advertisements that can affect the way they act and think.


Work Cited

Dam, Sophia Van, and Eva Van Reijmersdal. “Insights in Adolescents’ Advertising Literacy, Perceptions and Responses Regarding Sponsored Influencer Videos and Disclosures.” Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, vol. 13, no. 2, 2019, doi:10.5817/cp2019-2.

Hoek, Rhianne W., et al. “Development and Testing of the Advertising Literacy Activation Task: An Indirect Measurement Instrument for Children Aged 7-13 Years Old, Media Psychology.” Media Psychology, doi:10.1080/15213269.2020.1817090.

Love, Christa. Teaching Media Literacy Skills about Commercials: a Comparative Analysis of Media Literacy Instruction. Library and Archives Canada = Bibliothèque Et Archives Canada, 2009.

Zamel, Vivian. Negotiating Academic Literacies: Teaching and Learning across Languages and Cultures. Routledge, 2017.

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