Thursday, March 27, 2008

Assignments I Enjoy Grading

Because Sophmom and Yat Pundit*asked about this subject via Twitter after a comment I made....

I love my job more than I can say, but I do not like grading because I do not like judgment in general, and I want everyone to do well, but they don't always. And I hate it when students don't really care that much about learning, but I accept it, just like they accept the crappy grades they earn. On the other hand, a surprising number make it a point to tell me how much they're learning and how they now pay more attention and notice things in "the real world" and find themselves explaining things to friends and loved ones. But I digress...

Every now and then I manage to come up with some kind of assignment that's a real win-win for us all. They find it fun and interesting and it's not so much about a right/wrong thing as much as it is about thinking, and learning happens anyway.

Advertising was last topic covered in my Promotions Management class and tonight my students turned in one such assignment. I call it the What Were They Thinking? exercise. (I give this one to my Advertising classes, too.)

The short description: Students were instructed to identify an ad that they didn't understand from a strategic standpoint (content, message theme, type of appeal, creative execution, and such). They were to provide a copy of the ad along with an explanation of what it is about the ad that didn’t make sense. This allows me to assess the level of the students' understanding of advertising strategy. When they don't fully understand it, they present ads that actually do make strategic sense and I get the opportunity to address the confusion. When students really do understand it, I get truly baffling ads to add to my repository of teaching materials. And we have fun reviewing and discussing them in class.

Students can turn in print or television advertising and this semester, I gave instructions on how to download YouTube videos so that I could have a copy of any good commercials before they disappear, as they often do. And this year, I got a couple of great entries into the WTF? category, the one below from one of my Austrian students, who continue to prove to be very resourceful when it comes to finding stuff like this.

Anyone want to venture a guess on this one? Seriously.

I've got more, but none top this one.

Note to David O. (You're not undercover anymore!) Next up... I have just six words for you. (Do you really believe that's possible for me?)

*Note to Yat Pundit: Oh, rats! I've had you in my blogroll for a long time, I swear, but just realized that my omission of a quotation mark in the HTML rendered you invisible. I read you through my feed reader and didn't notice until now. Sorry! (Unfortunately, this is not the first time it's happened...)

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Blogger LisaPal said...

I decided to note this in the comments rather than in the post because I thought it would be more fun to let you think about this ad rather than telling you that there is a clear objective here and a reasonable strategy's been employed, though I'm not convinced that it's the most effective execution. I'll elaborate later, if anyone wants me to.

2:46 AM  
Anonymous Sophmom said...

It makes sense when you go to and it's, well, wildly creative.

Thanks for answering our query!

I don't know if we've talked about this (maybe?) but we had a sales promotion agency for 11 (or so) years. We did sweepstakes mostly, and some on pack or POP offers, mostly for blue chip clients. Concept, partner acquisition, Rules & Regs, prize insurance, production (seeding winners - sometimes backed up by the Promotion Watch guys w/ guns), all fulfillment and compliance. We were the first people to use an offline promotion to drive an online interaction. We know this because numerous national patent offices have spent the last ten years trying to prove we were not.

Nobody did games for a while after 9/11 and by the time it was all said and done, I could no longer bear to work with the creative genius / driving force (The Husband... I do still provide administrative support to his consultancy).

Other than dealing with him, though, it was a helluva ride while it lasted, albeit adrenaline poisoning. I can only wish I'd been able (or had the sense) to take classes in it in college. I bet your students love your classes.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Oliver said...

I've been having a glass of milk before bed for awhile now, but that video is enough to steer me back to red wine.

10:38 AM  
Blogger George "Loki" Williams said...

Have I told you lately that you are wonderful?

Best laugh I've had in a week!

1:44 PM  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I love the video but then again I don't drink milk!

5:45 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

OK, I want to do this blind and not go to the website mentioned above. OK, objectifying cows for milk or meat is just like objectifying women for their looks or promiscuous behavior???

7:54 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Wow, Sophmom! I should have you come talk to one of my classes. (I don't remember you telling me about this...??) Seriously, you'd be a great guest. I'm teaching it again this summer, if you're interested... (One more reason to come and visit us!)

David, are you saying the commercial didn't make you want to drink milk from the pierced finger of a rubber glove??

Loki, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Am I going to see you at Piano Night this year?

AOF, glad you liked it. I like cows and think the little ones are especially cute, but I don't think I could ever give up dairy stuff.

Richard, I think you've drawn a sound conclusion about the underlying message, but I doubt that this is immediately apparent to the average viewer. The audience is required to do a lot more work to get to that point, partially because the ad depicts the "dairy cowgirls" as willing participants in the milk debauchery, but I don't think the creators of the ad really meant for the conclusion to be drawn from the ad alone. And the important question is: how effective is this strategy if the objective is to turn people off to dairy products for ethical reasons?

From a critical perspective, the ad is definitely attention-getting. That's good. The engorged udder-bearing females and the milk-drunk males give it somewhat of a simultaneously enthralling yet repulsive effect. And anyone who's ever seen a Girls Gone Wild commercial definitely gets the connection. But...

Humor is not generally an effective appeal when the subject is serious. My opinion (based in part on my students' reactions) is that, aside from being stunned by the visuals, the ad is regarded as a spoof more than anything and the very brief appearance of the PETA logo at the end is overshadowed by what preceded it and is easily overlooked. (A large number of students didn't "get" the ad because they missed the logo, probably because of all the cognitive "noise" created by the ad, itself.) And the titillating "hot chicks with udders" theme is not enough to drive people to to see more of it, especially if they don't already know what PETA is and is all about. Actually, even if they do know, it could work against the organization's objectives. (If I know about PETA and know it uses the same kind of repulsion tactics that the pro-lifers use at abortion clinics,I'm not chancing a visit to that site. If I know and I'm already a PETA convert, I'm not part of the target.)

Anyway, if the viewer is somehow motivated to visit the site (by what, I don't know), it still looks like a spoof. You'd have to be motivated to watch the "sequel" for more of the same before you get the serious message. And I'm just not sure that anyone would want to see more of Milk Gone Wild than what was already seen in the ad.

Bottom line, I think this whole proposition was a real leap of faith, maybe too big.

3:32 AM  

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