Monday, November 14, 2005

ASSIGNMENT / ETHICS / ADVERTISING: Should students be creating ad campaigns?

POSTED BY: Bill Densmore

Please consider this question for discussion in class tomorrow (if we have time) during the visit of Fred and Jenny from Hill Country Observer: Is there educational value in asking students to design advertisements?

Years ago, when we owned the Williamstown Advocate, we and The Berkshire Eagle daily) both used to do "Design an Ad" special sections. In these sections, we would invite elementary- and middle-school children to draw advertisements promoting local businesses. The local business would then buy the space to print these child-created advertisements.

We asked the schools to help by distributing the materials and and the children would draw the ads during class time as an art project and as an exercise at learning how to create a catchy message about something. Mostly these were locally owned businesses -- many owned by people who themselves had children in the schools.

One year, a principal objected on the grounds this represented commercialization of the school. After a back and forth exchange, he relented on the basis that it represented a ligitimate intellectual exercise to learning how advertising messages are crafted. The text of a letter I sent to the principal advocating the newspaper's position is appended below. Below that is an email exchange from Georgia about a similar effort.

What are the pros and cons of this "Create an Ad" effort?


I think the view you expressed at Michael's Restaurant is intellectually honest. I certainly have cringed at the stories I have read over the years of schools allowing sponsored messages and paraphernalia within the learning environment as a tradeoff against declining tax support.

However, I think there is a distinction between having Coke advertisements on scoreboards and inviting some students to do some creative thinking about what goes into to selling products and services at the local-business level. I hope that you agree that a distinction can be made, and that offering students an option to draw a piece of art that is useful in a commercial context is not an example of prostituting the educational process.

To the contrary, I think. At some point, schools have to see part of their their mission as helping kids to understand how business works, and this is certainly a way to do that. Inviting children to think about what goes into creating an effective advertisement may very well teach them to consider what motivates people to buy -- and also how they might resist that buying impulse as astute consumers. I could imagine a very lively class discussion on this topic (which I'd be happy to join in, if asked).

I know that you'll consider this and that if you decide the school cannot participate it will be a principled decision which I'm sure you'll communicate thoughtfully.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 13 Nov 2005 22:21:19 -0500 (EST)
From: Bill Yousman <>
To: Frank Baker <>
Subject: Re: [ACME Member List] College students SHOULDN'T be creating ad
campaigns for cell phones

I'd really like to thank Frank for this posting.

When I was a faculty member at the University of Hartford, every year our students would participate in an advertising competition where they were given various products and companies to promote-- ranging from junk food like Pizza Hut to car companies trying to represent themselves as "green."

Except for one or two of us in the department, all of the faculty would get very excited each year about supporting the "advertising team," while I and a colleague looked on in dismay as we saw students spending their precious time at a university learning how to be tomorrow's corporate shills.

I believe this speaks volumes at how morally and intellectually bankrupt much (if not most) of the field of communication really is. And I say this as someone who holds a doctorate in the field.

Again thank you for sharing this. During my days at UH I often felt very alone as most of my colleagues, like the person you spoke with, didn't even seem to understand my concerns.

Bill Yousman
Managing Director
Media Education Foundation

> Today, I met a woman in Atlanta who told me she was a professor of
> Communications at Georgia Tech. She was most excited to tell me about a
> competition between her students and those at rival University of Georgia to
> create an ad campaign for Amp'd Mobile cell phones. (The award for best
> campaign was to be revealed Sunday afternoon)
> I was appalled and I told her so. She seemed so surprised by my attitude.
> This practice (which I assume is rampant) brings up a host of ethical
> issues.....of which I'm sure aren't discussed at either one of these
> universities.
> Anyway, here is a link to more details on the Ga Tech website:
> Frank Baker

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?