Bright Papers: Be a Food Ad Detective

Probably every day, you see ads for foods or drinks on TV, in the newspaper or in a magazine. Companies hope their ads will get you to buy the product or ask your parents to buy it for you.

It's fun to be a food ad detective and find common "techniques" that ads use to "sell" you on the product. There's nothing wrong with companies using these techniques in their ads, but knowing about them helps you decide whether the food or drink is really a smart choice for you.

Below are some ways that ads for foods and drinks might make you want the product and some questions to ask yourself when you spot them in an ad. See if you can detect these in the ads you see. Better yet, go over some ads with your parents and compare notes with them, too.

  • Attention grabbers: Ads sometimes use cool animation, popular music or bright colors to catch your attention. What are some "grabbers" in the ad you're looking at?
  • Celebrities: Seeing your favorite actor, musician or sports figure in an ad gives you a good impression about the product. Also, you might think you can be more like that person if you eat or drink the product. Do you believe this? Why or why not?
  • The "Cool" Factor: Some ads show kids who use the product being good at sports, having lots of fun, being popular with other kids or looking really great. You might think you'll be like this too if you eat or drink the product. Do you believe this? Why or why not?

Here's some stuff about eating right and being active to think about when you look at food or drink ads:

  • Is the amount of the food or drink shown in the ad too big, too small or just right to eat or drink at one time? How does it compare to the amount you usually eat?
  • Does the ad show people doing active things like getting some exercise? Does the ad make you feel like exercising, too? Being active helps you burn off some of the food you eat so you stay at a healthy weight.

Now that you've detected some "behind the scenes" ad techniques, you can use your new knowledge to decide whether or not you really want to try the product. And that's smart!

Now try figuring these out:

What the Heck is Junk Food?

Is Your Body in Balance?

Are You "Safety Smart" about Exercise?