Mini-Lesson: You’re the ad manager

131024_EYE_grupalIn this short lesson, students worked in small groups to brainstorm & present strategies for appealing to a target audience. I liked that this lesson asked students to apply their understanding of rhetorical appeals that we’ve studied (appeals to ethos, pathos, logos); it also asked them to think critically about advertisements and advertising messages.


  1. Understand the purpose of rhetoric
  2. Apply your understanding of rhetorical appeals

Previous learning: Students have learned about and have had practice identifying rhetorical appeals & rhetorical devices in “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”


  • Ad Manager handout
  • Article (print image of yogurt for each student or hyperlink to display on SmartBoard)


  • Ask students to recall prior knowledge about rhetorical appeals and how authors or advertisers might use these rhetorical appeals. Correct any misconceptions before proceeding.
  • Present students with the following problem: You are an advertising manager, and your company is having difficulty selling yogurt to young men. It’s your job to create an ad campaign that will successfully appeal to your target audience.
  • Distribute handout and tell students that they have seven minutes to work in small groups of 2-3 to create an advertisement.
  • Circulate around the room while students work to gauge understanding and to ask questions: What does your audience value? What is your audience concerned about? Why doesn’t your audience eat yogurt? How can you make yogurt appealing for your target audience? What information will you need to include to make this product appealing?
  • After seven minutes have passed, students present findings. I used this time to correct any misconceptions and to ask more questions: “What information will you include in your graph? Why is this important?”
  • Ask: What is the purpose of rhetoric? How did you use rhetorical appeals? (sell a product, convince an audience)
  • Display:
  • Lead short discussion (5 min). Ask questions: What do you notice about this yogurt packaging? Why do you think they’re packaged this way? What are these advertisers assuming about men? What’s your reaction?
  • Reflection: What was it like to be in the position of an advertising manager?


  • I created this mini-lesson for one class that seemed to be growing bored of (abstract) rhetorical analysis; they needed to work with rhetorical appeals in a more concrete way. Students used rhetorical appeals effectively, and created interesting (albeit somewhat humorous) advertisements. The response that I got from the exercise was largely positive: One student noted that he won’t look at advertisements in the same way. I was pleasantly surprised that this activity helped to generate more energy as we transitioned back into a close analysis of “Letter.”
  • I missed an opportunity by not spending a few more minutes sharing information about jobs related to English. For example, I could have shared salary information about advertising managers. I want students to understand that the skills they acquire in English class are applicable to the real world and need to take advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate this.
  • I need to find a way to make rhetorical analysis (while close reading a complex, grade-level text) more interactive and fun for all students. My students aren’t this energetic when analyzing King’s rhetorical moves, but I’d like them to be.
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2 Responses to Mini-Lesson: You’re the ad manager

  1. I just started reading through your blog after reading your article about gender and teaching. Have you ever seen Killing Us Softly by Jean Kilbourne? I use this when I teach about advertising and gender. Students select an advert, identify what message the ad sells us (this requires a thematic, visual analysis), and then mount an ethical argument explaining how the ad creates a ‘toxic cultural environment’ (Kilbourne’s words). They must use her talk as a theory text (she introduces concepts like objectification). We also read some of No Logo, which they can also use.
    I have found that students who don’t really get how men and women live in two different worlds (her way of putting it) really start to understand it after they watch Kilbourne (she has a particularly funny example about the ways in which men are never objectified). She also drives home the point that when advertising (society) offers only one way to be normal or desirable, then we are deprived of any authentic choice.

    We had an interesting session as a whole class analyzing the ideas in the Whalberg/Moss and Bieber/Stone Ck ads .

    In a later unit, we watch Adichie’s talk also, which we all absolutely love.

    Anyways, enjoying your blog!


    • Hi Benjamin,

      Thank you for your comment! This sounds like a great idea for a unit that emphasizes media literacy and critical thinking. I’m familiar with Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly,” but haven’t yet used it (I haven’t read “No Logo,” on the other hand, and will check it out).


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