Saturday, April 19, 2014

Getting Critical with Advertising

Recently, a McDonald's commercial about their coffee started popping up at the beginning of videos on a YouTube channel I'm subscribed to.  At first, I ignored the content of the ad as I impatiently waited for it to finish and the real videos to begin, but eventually, I started paying attention.  What I saw definitely bothered me.

The description of the video says that the ad is "shedding light on the process" of coffee growing and harvesting that leads to each individual cup of McDonald's coffee.  While I didn't really learn much about the process from watching, the ad definitely shed light on something.  Take a look:

Now watch it again with this question in mind: Whose faces do I see in this commercial?

The truth is, we don't see anyone's faces until we're shown the (probably rich) dude tasting the coffee at the end.  But all of the (probably not so rich) workers who grow, harvest, and prepare the coffee beans remain faceless.

We need to ask ourselves why that is.  Does McDonald's want us to think that the people who make our coffee aren't important?  On a broader note, does this commercial reflect our desire -- as affluent, privileged people -- to ignore people living in poverty?

If you're a teacher or parent, watching and analyzing this ad with your kids can be a great critical literacy exercise.  As I've mentioned before, critical literacy is more than just reading.  We can turn our critical eyes on anything we consume visually and mentally: television, movies, books, posters, paintings, graffiti, etc.

Companies are constantly barraging us with advertising in our society, and kids need to become critical consumers so they don't fall for every marketing ploy they encounter.  Therefore, it's incredibly important for us to teach our children how to question what they see and hear in the media.

So have you seen this commercial?  How could you work critical analysis of advertising into your lesson plans?  How could you take action to address the problematic elements of commercials?  Let me know what you think!

Related Posts:

Critical Literacy Isn't Just about Books

Farmworker Awareness

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