Are we buying dreams? The ABCs of advertising

Usha Raman

ads It’s all around us; when we walk down the street, when we open the morning newspaper, when we open a browser window, or in the middle of a television show we’re watching. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us to buy something, renew something else, try yet another thing, or do something. Fast food, mobile phone connections, mobile phones, clothes, shampoos, life insurance, soft drinks, schools, colleges, cars, movies, ideas…the list goes on.

Children, like the rest of us, spend a large number of hours consuming media of various kinds. Even when they are not in front of a television or reading a magazine, they (and we) are targets of the “hidden persuaders”, as ad makers are sometimes called. The hoardings on the road, the dangling signs at the kirana store, and even the covers of our school notebooks carry the names of consumer brands and command loyalty to them.

Opinions are always divided about whether advertising is a good thing or a bad thing, and many of us end up feeling that it is a necessary evil. Advertisements can be used as an enjoyable and varied teaching tool in and of themselves, and the process of advertising – the entire machinery behind how an ad is created from audience/market research to the creative process – can also be simulated to learn both skills and concepts.

In higher classes, talking about advertisements/advertising can also lead to some interesting debates across subjects and themes in a way that demystifies this media form, equipping children with important critical thinking skills that allow them to resist and question the persuasive power of such messages. The project could be initiated in either the language, economics, or social studies class with links to history and science where possible.

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