Older elementary and middle school students aren't too young to start learning about the strategies marketers use to promote and advertise products. Most preteens watch TV, surf the Internet and see ads all over retail stores. They are constantly bombarded with solicitations to buy certain products. To help students increase their consumer awareness, you might incorporate a product-placement activity into your social science curriculum.
Choose a famous movie or TV show that you know has strategic product placements and show it to your class. Big-screen movie and TV producers know exactly what they are doing when they have characters eat a certain brand of chocolate, drink a particular type of soda or drive a specific luxury-brand car. Ask your students to take notes during the movie or show and write down all examples of product placements they see.
Your Mind Loves to Shop
Ask students to share their lists with classmates. Discuss what brands were used, where products were located in the scenes, who used the products and what types of consumers the products targeted. If a student remembers a particular product but can't name it, discuss ways the producer might have used product placement more effectively. You also might ask students if they thought the product placement had a positive or negative effect on consumers. For example, if an actor or actress is drinking a particular brand of soda, does it make your students want to buy that product in the future?
Always Room for Creativity
Give your students the assignment to come up with five creative product placement ideas they would incorporate into the movie or show if they were producing it. Advise them that they can't replicate product placement ideas that already were used. For example, they can't simply change the brand of soda to another manufacturer or select a different automobile make and model. Encourage your students to come up with subtle ideas so consumers don't feel they are being solicited.
Show and Tell
Compare ideas as a class. You might focus on out-of-the-box ideas, such as having a character use the U.S. Postal Service or click on a specific search engine on his computer screen. Discuss examples your students devised that might be well-suited for particular audiences, such as children, teenagers or adults. The goal is to encourage your students to increase their consumer awareness, so there are no incorrect answers as long as they followed the instructions.
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