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the persuaders


Discussion Questions

Featured Lesson Plan
  • What Difference Does a Name Make?
  • Student Handout: What Difference Does a Name Make?

  • Additional Lesson Ideas
  • Create an Advertising Map
  • Debate: Naming Rights
  • Advertising Code of Ethics

  • Internet and Other Resources

    Printable .pdf of Entire Guide
    (Adobe Acrobat required)

    » About the Film:

    In "The Persuaders," a 90-minute documentary, media and culture critic Douglas Rushkoff examines how changes in marketing practices are influencing U.S. culture and politics. The first part of the film looks at how advertisers are trying to break through the clutter that they have created, looking for new ways to reach potential consumers. It also looks at how the terrain has shifted -- from a time when there were real differences between products, and the job of advertising was to highlight what the product did, to the current situation where often the only real difference between items is their image, and the emphasis of advertising is on what the product means. This new marketing trend, in which marketers invite consumers to buy into an identity rather than simply purchase a product, is aptly illustrated by an in-depth look at the creation of an identity for Delta's new low-cost air carrier, Song. The second part of "The Persuaders" looks at how these new marketing techniques are being applied to politics. A profile of Republican political strategist, Frank Luntz, asks whether changing language according to focus group preferences clarifies or clouds the issues.

    » A Note to Teachers:

    Primarily for classes in U.S. History or Government / Civics. Also of interest to people teaching Economics, Business, Marketing, Ethics, or Media Literacy.
    Grade Level: 9-12

    "The Persuaders" considers the influence of new marketing techniques on the democratic process. It can help students deepen their understanding of the meaning(s) of democracy as wells as key events in U.S. history.

    One issue highlighted is the choice of names for government policies and congressional bills. The featured lesson builds on this issue by asking students to examine historical legislation through the lens of modern marketing. Students will consider and in some cases re-name landmark laws or policies.

    Additional lesson ideas help students examine the role of advertising in their own lives.

    » Discussion Questions:

    A list of questions for students to discuss after viewing "The Persuaders."

    » Featured Lesson Plan:

    What Difference Does a Name Make?

    • Students will consider how people from a variety of political perspectives might have used current marketing techniques to craft names for major policies or pieces of legislation, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, the Monroe Doctrine, the Sedition Act, Affirmative Action, etc.

    • Students will also look at the phrases used in debates over current issues to determine whether or not the language accurately describes content.

    » Additional Lesson Ideas:

    Create an Advertising Map
    Students will use mathematics and geography skills to map the presence of advertising in their school or neighborhood.

    Debate: Naming Rights
    Students will debate the merits of selling naming rights for any or all of the following reality-based situations: subway station, stadium built with tax dollars, or a local bridge.

    Advertising Code of Ethics
    Students will consider the responsibilities of an advertiser in a democratic society and develop a code of ethics for sponsors and creators of advertising.

    » Purchasing the Film:

    "The Persuaders" can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the film streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site.

    » Credits

    This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Dr. Faith Rogow, Insighters Educational Consulting. Advisers were Ellen Greenblatt of University High School San Francisco and Patricia Grimmer of Carbondale High School, Carbondale, Illinois.

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