Feb 10, 2020

Hook Students with Commercials in the Classroom! by Renee Nelson

Thanks for Renee Nelson, an NGPF Fellow teaching at KIPP NYC Prep High School in the Bronx, for submitting this guest blog post:

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It only takes thirty to ninety seconds to get someone’s attention and to convince them to make a big purchase or persuade them to try something new. Wrap your mind around that fact because it hasn't ever gotten the recognition it deserves. There’s only one category in the Primetime Emmy’s devoted to commercials, and not all companies have millions of dollars to have their commercial air during the Super Bowl. Too often we are quick to forget that the reason we tried a new energy drink or saved up for a gadget with the latest technology probably had a lot to do with a commercial that we saw.

It takes extremely creative and concise people to create commercials! There’s a very limited time to reach the goal that the commercial has set out to accomplish. And believe it or not, most of the time they are effective. Companies allocate a lot of their budget into creating commercials that will get their message across to as many people as they can.

Now, you might be wondering why I'm fascinated with commercials and going on and on about them in this blog post. And the answer is: Because I'm a teacher!

The length of commercials are PERFECT for the classroom. They get straight to the point and their purpose is clear. In a Personal Finance course, many commercials are a great way to test for “self-control” and observe the reactions and behaviors of the students during and after watching. I’ve used commercials in my classroom countless times to introduce a concept and/or unit to my students. It is a great way to hook them and connect the unit to the real world.

One of my favorite commercials is called "This Is Getting Old" from ETRADE. It aired at the Super Bowl in 2018 and is a great introduction for your investing unit, specifically with an emphasis on investing for retirement. The focus and emphasis here is on the "why." Why is retirement planning is so important? But the hook that makes this relevant for students is that the "old way" of thinking about retirement is - well... “getting old.” Click to watch the commercial. 



Another favorite I use is the Mr. Mayhem series of commercials from Allstate. These are great for introducing students to insurance and how easily “mayhem” can happen in real life. In a simple and effective way it depicts the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. Click the examples below to watch. 


I also use Super Bowl Ads to show the impact they can have on the stock for each corresponding company. In my class, we do this by looking at trends around this time of year, and in years prior, when the Super Bowl ad was not running.

My favorite way to find and choose commercials is to recall a moment that a commercial stuck with me. Then, I search for it online and get a link for it on YouTube. Students absolutely love this and it pertains to the content in class so well that we even refer back to it weeks after they've seen the commercials! Don't just take my word for it! I hope this blog post nudges you to try it in your class and maybe even challenge your students to find commercials for extra credit that directly connect to the units being covered in your course!


We have some additional posts about advertising that you might want to combine with Renee's excellent examples:



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