Tag Archive for Analysis

Super Bowl 2012: Commercial Values

While having students identify details about language and “landscape” is important whenever teaching commercials/advertising, it’s imperative that they be able to identify larger cultural themes.

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If advertising reflects who we are as a society at any given time, how do commercials shape those values?  It’s something that as adults we may ponder, but it can be difficult for students to make those cultural leaps.  They may be able to identify the implicit humorous aspect or even discuss how a commercial’s choice of music impacts an audience, but they struggle to see the bigger picture.

Since Super Bowl commercials are “quintessentially” drawing on American experience, mores, values and nostalgia, they become a perfect forum to discuss these larger cultural representations with which students so clearly struggle.  Today we’ll examine two Super Bowl ads from this past Sunday and provide a list of viewing questions for writing response and discussion.  However, the ultimate goal is to get students to identify American values and/or beliefs.

After students view each commercial have them construct a series of big picture arguments about how we “envision” the United States. Have them construct an argument prompt that questions the validity of this point of view.  See the examples below and use them as a model to get students critically thinking/writing.  Note: Having students identify big picture elements in commercials will be difficult.  Having them turn those into writing prompts will take time, patience and modeling.  Be sure to set aside ample time for this type of activity.

 

History Channel-Swamp People: “This is Your Boss” 

  1. Explain the effect on the audience of repeating “This is your.”
  2. Examine the use of the following words: water cooler, 401K, co-worker, wingtips and break room.  Explain how the images that accompany them are supposed to create a sense of irony.
  3. Explain why the final narration of the commercial drops the “this is your.”  Explain how the tone changes as a result.
  4. What argument does this commercial make about the actual History channel program?

BIG PICTURE ROUND-UP: Identify two big picture arguments this commercial makes about the United States.  Your ideas must be complex enough to prove thoughtfulness.  Choose the best one and create a moral/ethical dilemma argument prompt.  Use the model below as a starting point.

Example

Big Picture: Americans don’t just value work they value work that requires physical labor.

Writing Prompt: While the American dream is dependent upon hard work how much do we actually value physical labor?  Provide evidence a variety of sources both historical and modern.

MetLife “Everyone” 

  1. Identify MetLife’s purpose in using cartoon characters to sell insurance.  Why not use real people?  Who is the audience?
  2. Why cartoon characters with a “real world” landscape/backdrop?  What is the impact of this contrast?
  3. View the commercial a second time paying particular attention to the language. Explain the impact and importance of repeating each of the phrases below:
    1. “No Matter who you are, no matter where you’re from”
    2. “Every family, everywhere”
    3. “Not just the ones who can figure it out, not just the most fortunate”
  4. Examine the tagline, “I can do this.”  Why is this an important phrase in regards to life insurance?

BIG PICTURE ROUND-UP: Identify two big picture arguments this commercial makes about the United States.  Your ideas must be complex enough to prove thoughtfulness.  Choose the best one and create a moral/ethical dilemma argument prompt.  Use the model below as a starting point.

Example

Big Picture: All Americans regardless of class need to provide for their family’s security and comfort.

Writing Prompt: Does life in America provide security and comfort for everyone?  What roles do income and/or class have to do with family safety?  Provide evidence from a variety of sources both historical and modern.