Media and Advertising

How does advertising affect our mental environment?

Lesson powerpoint here

There are a lot of articles/leaflets for this lesson. Please be selective about printing and encourage the students to visit this web page and look at the materials on their devices.

My mental environment

  • Spend 5 – 10 minutes doing a simple mindfulness meditation with the students: ask them either to focus on their breathing, or play a piece of music and ask them to pay attention to it closely.
  • Ask students to talk about what it was like in their minds whilst they were doing this: what was their mental environment like?

The effect of adverts on the mental environment

  • Play students this sequence of adverts
  • Firstly, ask students what the point of adverts is. Next, ask students to notice what effect the adverts had on them. What happened to their thinking and to their emotions? Did they notice any changes?
  • Ask students what effect they think adverts have on their mental environment. Do they pollute it, or provide entertainment or a valuable information service? How does advertising contribute to the elements of consumerism looked at last lesson: Keeping up with the Joneses and the hedonic treadmill?
  • Provide students with the information about the amount of advertising we are exposed to (on lesson ppt). Do they have any opinions about these figures?
  • Play students this clip from Mad Men, where a pitch is being made by an ad agency to a tobacco company.
  • Work through the questions on the lesson powerpoint about this clip.
  • There is an extract here from a magazine article which looks at how to interpret adverts. Ask students to go back to one of the adverts you looked at earlier and apply these techniques to it.
  • Look at Adbusters spoof ads (on lesson powerpoint). What message do the students think Adbusters are trying to communicate with these spoofs?
  • If time, ask students to read through the ‘Tragedy of the Mental Commons’ article.

The mind diet

  • If we assume that advertising, at some level, pollutes our mental environment, then we need to think about improving our mind diet. Ask students to look at the Life² ‘Mind Diet’ leaflet. What do they think? Is there anything that they would add or take away? How can this ‘diet’ be put into practice in our lives?


  • Ask students to be aware of the effect of marketing over the next two weeks and reflect upon/write about it. Ask them to try one (or more) of the mind diet suggestions and reflect on how effective they are.
  • Ask students to work out how much time they spend in an electronic environment (TV, internet, gaming, texting etc) over the course of a day: important for next lesson.