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Lesson Plan

Persuasive Techniques in Advertising

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Persuasive Techniques in Advertising

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Seven 50-minute sessions, with additional time for producing commercials
Lesson Author

Daniel Kuglich

Champaign, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four

Session Five

Session Six

Session Seven (after students have had time to prepare their advertisements)

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • demonstrate an understanding of three persuasive techniques (pathos, logos, and ethos) and other advertising strategies.

  • analyze advertisements according to their employment of these techniques.

  • demonstrate an understanding of the concept of demographics and specific audience.

  • synthesize this knowledge into advertisements of their own creation.

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Session One

  1. Introduce the lesson by engaging students in a brief discussion about their experiences with and the effects of advertising.  You may want to ask students:

    • Where do you encounter advertising?  (They will likely mention television, billboards, radio, Websites, school hallways, and so on.)

    • Which specific advertisements "stick in your head?"

    • What makes these advertisements memorable?  (They might mention music, catchy slogans, celebrity appearance, the appeal of the product itself, and so forth.)

    • Do you think advertisements have an effect on your personal interests?

    You will likely find that students have little trouble naming ads with which they are familiar, but most will claim that they have little effect on their habits, interests, or behaviors.

  2. Explain to students that advertisers very carefully construct their ads to make them memorable and appealing to consumers, and that the ways in which they try to convince them to buy products are similar to the ways they have been taught to write persuasively, using certain techniques and aiming toward a particular audience.

  3. Distribute the Persuasive Techniques in Advertising handout and introduce the concepts of pathos, logos, and ethos, defined at the top of the handout.  Students should understand that these rhetorical strategies are similar to those used in a persuasive writing assignment, and that they will use these strategies when creating their own commercial by the end of this unit.  Encourage students to make connections to examples of each of the terms they have used in persuasive writing of their own. Note: This is an appropriate time to clarify that the word logos in this context should not be confused with a brand-specific image or insignia referred to as a logo.

  4. After explaining the concepts of pathos, logos, and ethos, have students practice identifying the three techniques by placing a P, L, or E in the blank next to the examples at the bottom of this handout.  Have students share their responses with a partner and check for understanding by conducting a brief discussion of the examples.

  5. Although most of these examples were designed to have one clear answer, be sure to emphasize to the students that pathos, logos, and ethos are not always separate entities and may often overlap with one another. For example, "Nine out of ten dentists choose Crest," suggests that the dentists are credible experts (ethos), and also includes a statistic (logos). 

  6. Deepen students' understanding of the concepts of pathos, logos, and ethos with visual examples by sharing with them the Persuasive Techniques in Advertising online video. You may want to pause and have students explain how the television, print, and online advertisements utilize the three rhetorical strategies.  The narration in the commercial further explains their use in each advertisement. There is also the Persuasive Techniques in Advertising Video Transcription.

  7. Briefly discuss the "Other Advertising Strategies" section of Persuasive Techniques in Advertising handout.  Explain that these are more specific types of strategies that advertisers use and that many overlap with pathos, logos, and ethos.   For example, you may mention that patriotism is a strategy meant to evoke certain emotions, and would therefore constitute a use of pathos.

  8. Close the session by explaining to students that in future sessions, they will be examining existing advertisements with their new analytical skill and applying it to creating ads of their own.

  9. Encourage students to begin looking at advertisements they encounter in terms of these three techniques.

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Session Two

  1. Begin with a brief review of the concepts of pathos, logos, and ethos from the previous session.  Ask students to demonstrate their growing understanding by providing examples of each of the techniques from advertisements they have recently seen.

  2. Now introduce the term demographics to students: the characteristics that make up a human population such as gender, age, and race.  Have students discover which demographic group(s) they fit into by completing the Demographics: Who are you? handout.  When creating their group commercials in a later session, students will need to consider the demographics for their product. Explain to students that this is how advertisers think of consumers: not as individuals, but as members of groups that tend to believe, behave, or purchase in certain patterns. Even when an advertisement is appealing to the idea of individuality (such as Burger King's "Have It Your Way" promotion), advertisers are appealing to the demographic group of "people who like to be thought of as individuals," not to any single consumer.

  3. Continue the discussion of demographics by distributing the Targeted Commercials handout, which will further explore the concept of demographics. Ask students to begin applying their understanding of demographics and targeted advertising by showing the first part of a television program of your choice.  Since the purpose of this activity is to show how advertisers cater to a show's intended audience, you may want to make sure you are presenting a show with commercials that very obviously target a specific demographic. 

  4. Before watching, share with students a brief description of the show they are about to see, including race/gender/class of the main characters, genre of the program, and the time/date/channel on which the program aired.  Have students use these factors (and any other prior knowledge they may have of the show) to determine the probable demographics.  Students should indicate their choices on the handout.

  5. While students watch the commercial break(s), have them take brief notes to remind them of the products being advertised.

  6. Have students complete the "After the program" response question at the bottom of the Targeted Commercials handout.  Then discuss the degrees to which the advertisements match the demographics of the likely intended audience of the television program. 

  7. This would be an appropriate time to talk about clear evidence that programming and advertising are marketed to specific groups.  Lifetime: Television for Women, Spike! TV, Logo, and Black Entertainment Television all exist not only to give viewers programming they might like, but also to allow advertisers to target their audiences more specifically.

  8. Distribute the Commercial Dig activity, explaining to students that this is a long-term assignment that requires them to keep track of eight commercials viewed during one television program and to explain briefly the purpose of each advertised product. Remind students that the commercials they record on this chart should all come from the same show, as the completed chart will be used to re-emphasize the concepts of demographics and targeted advertising. Inform them that this assignment should be completed by Session Four and ask if there are questions before closing the session.

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Session Three

  1. Remind students what they have learned so far in this lesson: techniques advertisers use to persuade consumers to buy their products and the concept of "targeting" certain audience demographics to make the process of persuasion more efficient and focused.

  2. Explain to students that they will have the opportunity to apply this knowledge by looking at some real ads for real products.  Share that the goal of this activity will be to examine how advertisers skillfully use multiple strategies to persuade their audiences.

  3. Distribute the Analyzing Ads handout and discuss the expectations and format for response.  Students will analyze six advertisements: two print ads, two television commercials, and two Internet advertisements.  The Internet advertisements should take the form of marketing Websites featuring a particular product, or pop-ups/embedded ads in Websites unrelated to the product.

  4. This activity will allow students to practice their recognition of pathos, logos, and ethos in three different modes of advertising, preparing them for the creation of their own commercials.  Students should also record any of the "other strategies" explained on Persuasive Techniques in Advertising handout, also required as part of the final project.

  5. Share with students the print ads you already collected as well as the Web Resources for Finding Example Advertisements and have them look for ads. Point out to students that they may wish to access television ads on their own time, including during their work on the Commercial Dig activity. Depending on how efficiently students work through this activity, this part of the lesson will likely extend into the next session.

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Session Four

  1. At an appropriate time in student engagement in the continuation of the analysis activity from the previous session, distribute the Commercial Assessment rubric and explain that you will use it to evaluate the commercials they will produce in an upcoming session. Ask students, in small groups, to review one of the teacher- or student-selected commercials and apply the rubric to the commercial.  Students should determine whether the commercial effectively utilizes pathos, logos, and/or ethos, and note their score on the rubric. Students should also indicate the effectiveness of any of the "other strategies" on the second page of the rubric.

  2. When students are ready, check for understanding by several volunteers present one of the advertisements they analyzed, briefly discussing the effective use of persuasive techniques.

  3. Wrap up this section of the lesson by using the Advertising Advantages: Television vs. Print vs. Online to engage students in a discussion of the advantages of each mode of advertising, using the examples on the handout as a guide.  This discussion will help students decide which modes of advertising they might use when creating their commercials in the next session.  You may wish to use the Venn Diagram to facilitate this discussion.

  4. Remind students that they will need to have their completed Commercial Dig activity ready for discussion in the next session.

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Session Five

  1. Ask students to get out their completed Commercial Dig activity sheets.  Give students the opportunity to solidify their understanding of the concept of demographics by working through the analysis tasks in the Commercial Dig Reflection Questions.  Have students use their completed charts to answer the reflection questions. Students should talk through their responses with a partner before producing a written response.

  2. As time permits, engage students in a discussion on fairness in advertising, following the prompt in Question #4 on the handout. Some ideas follow:

    • Which advertisements could be viewed as harmful or unfair to a group of people?

    • Can targeting a specific demographic sometimes encourage stereotyping?

    • When do you see stereotyping used in advertisements?
  3. You may wish to give students access to the online articles Target me with your ads, please and Mixed Messages, which discuss how Websites use technology to target consumers and the use of billboards in impoverished and minority neighborhoods, respectively, as part of this discussion.

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Session Six

  1. Students will use this session to begin to synthesize all they have learned about advertising and begin creating a commercial for a fictional product.  First ask students to form small groups and decide on a product to advertise.

  2. Next, students should determine the target audience for their product, remembering previous lessons on demographics.

  3. Depending on available time and resources, ask students to create a print, filmed, live, and/or Internet advertisement for their product.  They should take into account their observations from the Advertising Advantages: Television vs. Print vs. Online.

  4. Have students use the Planning Your Advertisement sheet to plan for an advertisement that will target the previously determined demographic, and demonstrate pathos, logos, ethos, and three of the "other strategies." This may also be an appropriate time to review the expectations set forth in the Commercial Assessment rubric.

  5. Give students access to the Comic Creator and/or the Printing Press to create the print advertisement.  Free software such as iMovie and Windows Movie Maker may be used to edit any filmed commercials.  Web creation sites such as PBWorks and Google Sites may be used to create Internet-based advertisements.

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Session Seven (after students have had time to prepare their advertisements)

  1. Give students time to meet in their groups and plan the presentation of their ads.

  2. Have each group present, allowing time for discussion with the class about the effective use of persuasive techniques in each advertisement.

  3. After the presentations and discussion are complete, distribute the Persuasive Techniques in Advertising Reflection Questions and give students time to solidify their learning by responding to the four questions.

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