Thursday, January 5, 2012

Media Literacy Matters

Yesterday I saw a commercial for General Mills cereals that made me want to jump through the television and run through the set shouting,"Are you kidding me?  We are not idiots!"  Why was I so upset by the commercial?  Because here's what it says about cereals such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, and Honey Nut Cheerios:  More WHOLE GRAIN! 

More whole grain than what?  Than any other ingredient.  Really.  See the pitch for yourself on Whole Grain NationHow can you make cereal without grain???  I felt insulted by this pitch, that the mere mention of whole grain and more in the same statement would be enough to convince me that these cereals are healthy.  Of course the grain is the primary ingredient, whether it's whole or not.  That's like advertising that cola has More WATER than any other ingredient.  It's still soda, and these cereals are still loaded with corn syrup, sugar, and "artificial ingredients."  One serving of a General Mills cereal can have up to 14 grams of sugar, the second ingredient on the list.  

I was alone when I saw this commercial, but I wish that I had been surrounded by susceptible children so I could bank on this "teachable moment."  Our kids need to know how advertising is designed to manipulate them.  They need to know it even more now because of internet ads that offer free trips, miracle drugs, and duplicitous empty promises.  Many years ago I used to teach a persuasive writing unit based on analyzing print ads.  If I were to resurrect that unit now, I would use a whole new set of advertisements, mostly from television and the internet.


  1. Advertising literacy is increasing becoming more important. If you want to know more, please take a look at my Media Literacy Clearinghouse website, and click on the huge ADVERTISING category.

  2. I LOVED teaching about media literacy when I taught a MS media class. I always showed the Dove evolution commercial and the kids went nuts over it. Check it out I always had great discussion with the girls AND the boys after watching this.