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Buy me! Buy me! A creative look at advertising.

We live in a highly commercial society filled with an endless variety of products. I asked my high school students the following questions: What makes any product desirable or visually attractive? What is there about the quality of the product that would cause you to take a second look? I also asked the students to use part of a three-day weekend to go to a supermarket or toy store to help answer those questions. Both locations afford the opportunity to see a duplication of similar products.

I instructed the students to wander through the aisles and see what caught their eye. What qualities would cause them to look again? Could they sense that, because of competition, many products seem to jump off the shelf shouting, "Buy Me! Buy Me!" What gives that impression or makes that possible?

Unusual Advertising

As the next class began, I posted examples of unusual advertising campaigns. These advertisements were a random selection of Absolut Vodka advertisements. The high school students were very familiar with these highly acclaimed advertisements.

So to begin, I started with a disclaimer that I was not encouraging the use of alcohol or any other drug but sharing the visually unique ways that the Absolut Vodka Company has developed its advertising. Because this company employs a variety of creative ways to advertise its product, it generates interest in its product.

What's the Attraction?

A discussion followed in which I asked the students: What attracts anyone to a product? What is the importance of the visual presentation of the product? Are you aware that certain age groups are targeted in their advertising?

I used this discussion as a jumping off point for the student assignment by asking: What product do you think is needed in our world or our society today? How about a product for the future? How could you develop an advertisement for that product?

Two-Part Assignment

This assignment was divided into two parts: a two-dimensional layout design for a magazine, 9 x 12" (23 x 31 cm), and a three-dimensional package design to be approximately 6" (15 cm) in any direction. Creative ideas for a future product were encouraged. Serious or humorous solutions were also acceptable.

Both parts stressed the readability of the lettering, strong composition, and good craftsmanship in the use of materials. The one main requirement was that the product had to be personalized. The student's name, first or last, had to be included on the product design. This was included so the student would show greater ownership to what she or he developed.

A Variety of Possibilities

The media was optional. Many students used colored pencils, watercolor, or collage. I strongly encouraged the students to use computer-generated lettering to give the most professional presentation. White drawing paper, 9 x 12" (23 x 31 cm), was used for the magazine advertisement. Heavy, white paper, such as railroad board, was used in the package design. A rough copy for the package was made out of gray bogus paper to work out the size, folds, and tabs for gluing.

Increasing Visual Awareness

The value of this project was to increase visual awareness about advertisements. The students became more aware of what visually attracts anyone to a product and what makes a product desirable: This assignment also gave them the opportunity to learn about advertising design as a vocation and explore the skills needed to do that job.

Ken Vieth is an art teacher at Montgomery High School in Skillman, New Jersey.
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Title Annotation:school project
Author:Vieth, Ken
Publication:School Arts
Date:Dec 1, 1996
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