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the other drug war

» Student Handout:

Key Concepts in Media Literacy

Review these concepts and consider how they apply to ads for prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

  • All media are constructions. Media are created for a particular purpose. Media makers carefully choose and edit information to fit their purpose. What is the purpose of the ads? What information is included in the ad to contribute to its purpose? What information is excluded?

  • Media messages are representations of reality. Media messages represent themselves as reality. Sometimes the "reality" depicted is idealistic. For example, some automobile commercials contain scenes associating the vehicles with sophistication, beautiful models, and exclusive neighborhoods. How is reality represented in the drug advertisements? How close is the media reality to reality as you know it?

  • Individuals construct meaning from media messages. We interpret the meaning of media messages by comparing them to our own beliefs, needs, and experiences. Often advertisements are designed to tap a need or desire on the part of the audience. For example, a commercial might associate a product with beauty, health, happiness, or economic success. As a result, people longing for these goals might believe that purchasing the product will bring them closer to their desire. What meaning do you associate with the drug advertisements? What meanings do you think people with various health problems will derive from the ads?

  • Media messages may have social consequences. The purposes of drug advertising and the meaning an audience attributes to the ads are likely to bring about effects in people's behavior. What are some of the social and economic effects that are likely results of prescription drug advertising?

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