Why Johnny can’t pick out the best Super Bowl ad

Frank Baker, media educator, has posted a "media literacy lesson plan" for teachers informing them How to Use Super Bowl Ads In The Classroom . Apparently this lesson plan is designed to help improve the "media literacy " of children so they’ll understand better how media works to influence them into making decisions like purchasing stuff they don’t really need. While I agree that such literacy is important (my children will tell you that when they were pre-schoolers, I would often ask them after watching or hearing an ad, "What were they trying to sell us?"), I’m amused (alarmed?) that Mr. Baker does not see the irony of this plan if its goal is to encourage students to be less influenced by the media .

Here’s the lesson plan:

Here are some questions you might have your students ponder before the game:

1. What do you know about the Super Bowl game? Where did you learn it?
2. Why does the game get tremendous media attention every year?
3. What makes advertisers want to put their ads on this once-a-year sporting event?
4. Why do the ads cost over $2.5 million for just one 30 second ad?
5. Who decides what order the ads air during the game?
6. How do advertisers create buzz about their ads, even before the game is broadcast?
7. Create a chart listing the known advertisers and their parent companies.
8. How many ads are for: alcohol? Why is this so?
9. Which ad(s) are you looking forward to viewing and why?
10. How do advertisers make money from their Super Bowl spots?
11. Might you find ads inside the stadium? If so, where? Be on the lookout for not-so-obvious ads during the broadcast. (Students might want to create a list)

Here are some questions to consider after the game:

1. What ad(s) did you find most entertaining, and why? (students should be specific and give details here)
2. What ad(s) did you find the most dull, and why?
3. Which ad(s) did you think were most effective, and why?
4. Which ad(s) were you most willing to share (email) with a friend?
5. Which ad(s) featured well-known personalities? Why?
6. Which "techniques of persuasion" were used in each ad? (teachers might want to print out a list and have students match the ads with those on the list)
7. Calculate the total cost to the TV network if each ad costs an estimated $2.7 million.
8. How do Super Bowl advertisers get mileage for their message after the game is over?
9. How many ads did you spot inside the stadium?

I’ve developed some follow-up lesson-plan questions of my own:

Here are some questions to consider about this Super Bowl lesson plan:

1. How many hours before, during and after the game did this lesson plan assign students to spend watching and discussing Super Bowl ads?
2. What does it communicate to students that two days of classroom time should be devoted to discussing beer ads appearing on a football game.
3. How many minutes of beer ads were the students assigned to watch and discuss by this lesson plan?
4. Discuss why and how lesson plans like these — even clever and creative ones — frighten parents and other citizens who are concerned with the state of the nation’s educational system.
5. Create a chart listing any possible connection there might be between this lesson plan and something beneficial to a student (other than reinforcing how important drinking Budweiser must be to the nation’s economy because they can afford more and funnier ads than anyone).
6. Calculate the total cost to the nation’s economy of wasting valuable classroom time on lessons plans like this.

Update (a year later): Perhaps, due to left over Googlejuice, I received an e-mail reply from the lesson plans author who wrote me:

Thanks for making mention of my lesson plan.

Let me clarify my purpose:

The goal is to encourage teachers to consider using these ads to teach “critical thinking” and “techniques of persuasion”–both of which are in every state’s teaching standards.

Teachers need to feel comfortable using popular culture and current events in the classroom and this is just one way

I appreciate your point of view, but I’m not persuaded.