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Lesson Plans

Presidential campaign advertisements

October 6, 2020

Full Lesson

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Campaign advertisements on television and online can play an important role in presidential elections because they allow candidates to directly address the electorate with their messages. In this lesson plan, students will discuss what makes advertisements effective and examine ads produced by the 2020 presidential campaigns.


Subjects

Social studies, history, government

Estimated Time

1-2 50 minute classes

Grade Level

7-12

Activities: 

  1. As a warm-up, watch this PBS NewsHour “Brief but Spectacular” video featuring Fred Davis, a leading political consultant. What techniques does Davis use to make sure that advertisements are memorable and compelling? Why is this so important?

  • According to Davis, “Over the course of the day, you’ll see 500 ads…How many of those do you remember? Probably [zero.]” How many advertisements do you think you see in a typical day? How many do you remember? What makes an advertisement memorable for you?

2. Watch a television ad (embedded below) for each of the candidates below. Compare and contrast the techniques that each advertisement used such as images, music and narration. How would you describe the tone of each ad and how did it influence the ad’s effectiveness? Which advertisement do you think was most convincing and why? What, if anything, did you learn about each candidate’s platform from the ads? Discuss as a class.

JOE BIDEN:

DONALD TRUMP: 

Extension Activities:

  • Go to Living Room Candidate and choose one historical presidential election. Living Room Candidate features dozens of television campaign advertisements dating back to 1952. Watch the advertisements for each candidate. Compare and contrast the historical advertisements with advertisements today. How are they similar and different in terms of tone, message and informational content? What historical events could account for these differences? Explain.
  • Use this NewsHour Classroom lesson plan to create your own campaign ad.

Amanda Wilcox was an intern at NewsHour EXTRA. She is from Alexandria, Virginia. 

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