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Super Bowl 2012: Week in Review

           Friday Dialogue from                

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to analyze commercials.  All types of commercials.  Even, *gasp*, some of the worst.  

1.  Why do you think it is important to use commercials to teach students rhetoric?  What types of commercials do you think work the best with students?
What does Emily say?

 

Emily:  I think students respond the best to commercials with humor. However, I think they do the best job of analyzing commercials with dogs in them.  For some reason it is easy for them to extract a larger argument when a canine is involved!

Is Aubrey right?

Aubrey: Humor, dogs, even Kia’s “Hamster Rap” make a difference in student response.  Although I will say that I’ve used Google Chrome’s “Dear Sophie” commercial and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  Something about children growing up and swelling music.  Judge for yourself.

Google Chrome: “Dear Sophie”

2.  Sharethrough argues that consumers should demand all commercials live up to the same “hype” and content quality of Super Bowl Sunday.  Do you think that companies have the responsibility to entertain, morally challenge and delight their consumers?

Emily: No, I don’t think it is their “responsibility.”  However, I think the more

What does Emily say?entertaining they are the more effective they are in engaging viewers, which brings in more revenue.  I worry about commercials with the intent or responsibility to morally challenge their consumers.  I don’t think it is inappropriate or wrong, but I think it says a lot about the current state of our country and our morale if moral education is coming through 30-second spots that should be geared toward promoting a product.

 

Aubrey: I like entertainment.  I’d like to demand more entertainment. I’m not in a position to demand when it comes to advertising.  I don’t own aIs Aubrey right? Volkswagen, a Chevy or even a Ford.  There’s little chance that I’m going to fall wildly in love with Nacho Doritos or Bud Light.  So technically they don’t really owe me anything.  When it comes to morally challenging though, it seems complicated.  Ultimately even advertising that promotes “good” wants to also promote consumerism.  I don’t think either or those things are wrong individually.  I worry that together people, events, even “things” can be misappropriated.

 

3.  What commercials have had the most impact over the last ten years.

Emily: The commercials with lasting appeal are the ones that people find What does Emily say?themselves repeating later in the day.  The catchphrase or tagline is key.  The commercials with a statement like “don’t leave home without it” and “the other white meat” last with audiences.  The commercials with lasting appeal are the ones that people find themselves repeating later in the day.  However, my favorite taglines are ones like “Have It Your Way” and “I’m luvin’ it.” Mmmm…fast food.

Aubrey: Taglines are important.  I can’t remember as a child how many times I said, “Time to Make the Donuts” but it was far too many.  Personally, I feel the shift to commercials that showcase music and limited dialogue has been significant.  Clearly,  Volkswagen’s “The Force” is a near perfect example and the Chevy Sonic “Stunt Anthem” from Sunday was quite good.   But I would classify one my favorites as the Nike “Tag” commercial. Idea, execution, acting, music–it’s all amazing.  I may have looped it while writing all my responses.

4.  Choose an item or buisness that you think is in need of a revamped advertising campaign.  Explain yourself in an appropriate and witty way.

 

Emily: One store that I think is in need of a better advertising campaign is Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry.  I turn the television every time those commercials come on the air.  They are toxic.  No matter what approach they take (like the most recent commercials that have a man proposing on the big screen and then football players commenting on the fact that he went to Jared) they are still miserable.  Actually, I think most jewelry commercials are horrible.  The ones with Jane Seymour are pretty horrible too.
Is Aubrey right?

 

Aubrey: Gag, Jane Seymour and Kay Jewelers.  “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” is the worst.  Those commercials make me feel dirty if I don’t press mute fast enough.  They are rivaled by all of the Lexus ads asking you to make this a “December to Remember.”  I think I just threw up in my mouth thinking about that ad campaign.

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.

iStockphoto.com

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.

Super Bowl 2012: Overview

Do any Google search for advertising lesson plans and in Google language you’ll see “about” 3.8 millions results.  Change “advertising” to “commercial” and that number climbs to over 18 million.

With such vast resources available, it might seem as if starting a unit on the rhetoric of commercials would be a matter of pointing/clicking.   Instead, it’s tricky.  The lessons plans feel too simple or only ask for summary.  Worse, the commercials don’t meet the needs of your “audience” because of their age or content.

Do any good lessons plans for commercials exist?

iStockphoto.com

It’s easy to waste countless hours searching and come up empty handed.

Ultimately good commercials are hard to find.  Most are too “adult,” too irritating or too foolish for use in the classroom.  Even Monday after “the big game” might leave you feeling as if those 3.5 million dollar ad spots didn’t quite live up to their potential.  It’s easy to see why between Elton John as the king of Pepsi and Cars.com’s take on “confidence”.

In the midst of all the commercial teasers and Super Bowl Ad chatter, it seems only fitting to use that momentum to pick up where we left off last week with print advertising.  So this week we’re going to tackle Super Bowl commercials.  Of course, we’ll parse the “good” Super Bowl commercials by sorting them into categories and providing you a variety of sources to serves as background.  So relax. Maybe even close your eyes after your late night, snack food debauchery.  Just don’t let your mind wander to any of those Doritos commercials.  You’ll regret it.