Learning Activity for Grades 6 – 8

Expected Outcome

Youth will identify the purpose of advertising and how it works. They will then use these ideas in a fun activity to develop advertising posters that tell the truth about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Focus Scripture: Matthew 6:24 (NRSV)

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and wealth.”

Materials Needed

1. “Truth: the Anti-Drug” Activity Sheet handout (Print out the Activity Sheet below and make copies for all participants)

2. Large sheet of blank paper and markers (to develop advertising posters) – one sheet for each participant.

3. Sample ads on tobacco, beer and liquor from magazines or newspapers (for discussion purposes).

Tips for Youth Leaders

Youth and adults see advertising messages many times every day. On the radio, television, magazines, and billboards there are messages to buy certain products. Ads are usually very clever, colorful, and enticing kinds of messages and images. Very often they will contain a partial truth that pulls us in and makes us think we should try that product, especially if at the same time we can become that image in the ad; for example, the beautiful, appealing girl who gets the guy. The truth really is that the product cannot do that for us, and the truth is that at times that product may even be harmful.

As young people learn how advertising works, they will have more power and choice over what advertisers and media images are trying to sell. They will be able to discriminate more and make better and healthier choices. Tobacco and alcohol companies say that their marketing is not aimed at young people, but it seems clear that marketing strategies reach and attract youth. Experts believe that youth are extremely receptive to advertising images. Even before they can read, children see the slick, youthful images that often are used in selling alcohol and tobacco. This is an activity that examines how advertising works and then gets the youth involved in developing ads that really tell the truth about the product.

Truth really becomes the “Anti-Drug” and helps us resist the power of the advertising. To help you with this activity, here are a few things about advertising to keep in mind.

1. The purpose of advertising is to sell the product by encouraging product users to switch brands, recruit new users of the product, and to increase the amount of the product used.

2. Advertisers know who the target audience is and what will work with that group.

3. Advertisers use “hooks” or images that appeal to certain age groups or groups of people. For example, risk-taking activities appeal to youth while a quiet sandy beach and warm sun appeals to older people.

4. Advertisers will often use partial truths, hoping the “true” part of the message will gain acceptance for the rest of the message that might be untrue.

5. Advertisers want you to “feel” a certain way when you see their advertisement.

6. Cigarette ads have been banned from TV and radio since 1971. Since 2001 tobacco advertising has also been banned from most billboards and magazines. However, tobacco companies have found other ways to get their message across like sponsoring race cars and putting images on sports apparel, toys and collectable merchandise.

You can extend this activity over a couple of sessions with your youth group or you can do it in one session. Give as much time for the development of their “Truth – the Anti-Drug” message development as you can since that will be the real learning part of this activity.

Activity Directions

Step 1. – Ask the youth to describe ads that they have seen on TV or in magazines lately that they really like. (You may want to bring some ads to start this discussion or to expand on it.)

Describe some ads they have seen lately related to tobacco, beer, and wine.

Show a few sample ads and examine them by asking the following questions:

    What is the purpose of this ad?
    Who is the audience?
    What “hooks” are used to attract the reader?
    What does the advertiser want you to think and feel?
    Can you identify any partial truths?
    What is the complete truth?
    What should a Christian do about seeking “the whole truth”?

Step 2. – Have the youth get into small groups of four to five. Although each person should develop an individual ad, the group can help generate ideas in this process. Using the “Truth: The Anti-Drug” Activity Sheet, have each youth plan an ad and then create an ad that tells the real truth about drugs, alcohol or tobacco.

Encourage them to use the same approaches that ad agencies use in developing ads, like clever messages, humor and appealing images, but make the ad tell the truth rather than create a false impression.

Also encourage them to use the “anti-drug” theme in their ads. See if they can give a faith dimension to the message imparted by the ad.

Step 3. – Have each youth show her or his ad to the whole group.

Lead a discussion about how the youth can get these messages out to the whole congregation. Perhaps hang the ads in the church for viewing by church members.

Follow up with the ideas that are generated.

Click here for Learning Activity 2 – Handout.