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Going for Gold: Ads from the Olympic Games

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Advertisers often create different ads to sell the same product to different (niche) audiences. They spend large amounts of research time and money to determine what appeals to certain audiences. Television advertisers for the Beijing Summer Olympics used a number of strategies to market their brands, and creating a sense of heightened emotional participation in the lives of athletes was one of the most common--and popular--approaches advertisers used.  With this Media Lit Moment, you can help students identify some of the responses advertisers hoped to elicit from viewers of the summer games. 

Have students investigate their responses to an advertisement about a famous Olympic defeat (Visa). 

AHA!  This advertiser knows I’m a fan of the Olympic games and has targeted this ad to me to stir my emotions. They want me to like their brand because I like the Olympics! 

Key Question #3: How might different people understand this message differently? 

Core Concept #3:  Different people experience the same media message differently.

Grade Level:  middle school + 

Materials:  Still frame from or entire advertisement by Visa for Beijing Olympics which narrates the injury and defeat of Derek Redmond in a 1992 summer games track event.  Computer with internet access and projection screen; OR overhead projector and transparency for still shot. 

Resources:  Article on Olympic advertisements from August 18th Wall Street Journal online, which includes a free video link to the advertisement.   And/or sample still shot from:

Activity:  The camera and the narration for this ad devote significant attention to the athlete’s pained expressions and Redmond’s father helping him walk to the finish line. Have the students talk about the image(s) and the emotions they evoke.   What is their response to the close-ups of Redmond in his moment of defeat?   What do they think/feel about the presence of Redmond’s father in the scene?  What does this ad make them think or feel about the Olympic Games in general?What kind of response do they think the advertiser hoped they would have?  Why would Visa create this ad?  (Visa is not only promoting its product, but its sponsorship of the 2008 summer games).   

Encourage Further Discussion:  Use the Wall Street Journal article to discuss television advertisements for the Olympics in a broader context.  The article discusses the pricing of ads, Nielsen rankings for most popular ads, and the different types of ads which tended to be the most popular.  The online article also includes free links to about fifteen of the most popular ads, including a few ads for Chinese audiences.       

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,   


Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 07:46 )

Who Gave SpongeBob His Square Pants?

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Aside from the celebrities who lend their voices to big budget productions by Pixar, voiceover artists are some of the least known people in Hollywood. Yet these are the very people who are so instrumental in the creation of animated characters that we all know and love, from SpongeBob to the Family Guy to Remy the Rat in Ratatouille. 

In this MediaLit Moment, students get to discover what it takes to create an animated character. 

AHA!  Somebody had to create this character before he ever came to life!  SpongeBob is the result of someone’s imagination.

CML Key Question #1:   Who created this message?

CML Core Concept #1:  All media messages are constructed

Grade Level:  3-6

Materials:  DVD player, DVD of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, or access to Tom Kenny in Central Park at 

Activities:  Ask students what they know about the making of cartoons.  How are cartoons created? Who decides what the character looks like, what he says, what he wears, where he lives, who his friends are? Who is your favorite cartoon character? Why?   

For any of the SpongeBob DVDs, play the special features which discuss Tom Kenny’s role in creating the SpongeBob character.  Make sure to include live shots of Kenny voicing the character in studio.  Or see the link above for Tom Kenny in Central Park.

Ask students questions to assess their comprehension of the feature they’ve finished watching.  Who is Tom Kenny?  What does he do?  How important is Tom Kenny’s voice to the character of SpongeBob?  What did Kenny and others do to turn SpongeBob into the character we see on the screen?     

Extended activity:  Can you draw a cartoon character? What would the voice of your character sound like? 

CML Key Question  # 1 for Producers:  What am I authoring?

Materials:  “Animatics” special features on SpongeBob DVDs.  The animatics features  re-play voice tracks from the DVD while displaying just the storyboards for the corresponding scenes.  Or  access the Inside Nicktoons Studio with SpongeBob SquarePants at   You’ll find a link there to a video of an artist drawing the characters.    


The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,   

Last Updated ( Monday, 06 July 2009 07:48 )

Who is renting my eyeballs?

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The Product Placement Counting Game

Product placement is an increasingly common practice whereby advertisers pay media makers to use or display their products as props in movies, television shows and video games. Here’s a “teachable moment” to help students recognize who is renting their eyeballs when they watch their favorite shows or movies.

Have students count product placements in media programs:  TV shows, videogames, social networking sites all provide great resources.    

AHA! My media is full of hidden advertisements. I’m being influenced without realizing it!  And sometimes these product placements affect how the story is being told…the advertisers are renting my eyeballs and often, I’m paying them for the privilege!

Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?

Core Concept #5: Media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Grade Level:  3 – 12

Materials: Video or DVD of a current film, videogame or television clip appropriate to your age group that contains multiple product placements, DVD/VCR player, paper or chalk board, internet access.    

Resources:  tracks product placements in the week’s number one film and includes archives from past years. 

Activity:  Have the students talk about advertising in general. What were some examples of products? Where do you see most advertisements?  How do you know if you are viewing an ad? When you see the specific name of a product being used in a TV show or movie, do you consider that an ad? Why or why not? Have you ever heard the term “product placement?” 

Show the media piece or the video clip twice. First, look at it through without stopping or commenting. Then look at it again and have students note (or call out) when they recognize a specific product being used. List all products on the board in front of the class. How many products did the students count? 

Guiding Questions for additional discussion: How can viewers know when a product is used for artistic or narrative reasons and when it is simply a paid product placement?  Who benefits from product placements and who is hurt by it?  Is it unethical if money is paid for an ad that is never identified as advertising?  Why are product placements not listed at the end of a TV show or movie? Are there times when product placements are useful or helpful?   

Have the students go online to media industry web sites to see examples and read how the industry describes product placements.

The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework.  Used with permission, © 2002-2008, Center for Media Literacy,   

Last Updated ( Friday, 31 March 2017 11:42 )

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 a year in review 2014
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 advertising consumer debt and media literacy
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 children and media literacy part 2
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