Media Literacy & Burger King Advertisements from Around the World

Dec 14, 2011 by

This morning I discovered one of the most ridiculous, over the top, and just plain head scratching commercials from Burger King thanks to one of my twitter friends. It appears to be a Russian produced video for Burger King, and while I’m not sure if it’s intended to be an actual commercial or just some rap gone horribly wrong, it turns the “wacky” meter up to 11.

Now, I’m not one to quickly dismiss another culture’s take on what is a quintessentially American form of communication; over the top commercials for fast food places. If anything, I appreciated the fact that while this video did have some sexually charged references, it was actually quite tame compared to many American produced commercials with scantily clad women, including the following commercial for Burger King starring Darius Rucker (Dallas Cowboy cheerleader’s giving me a shave, really?).

After watching both of those I was curious to see what other countries and cultures were putting out there for Burger King commercials (my mind works in strange curious patterns like this all the time), and I was rewarded with a commercial apparently from Korea. While it was refreshing to see that the advertisement didn’t settle for the “sex sells” model, it was equally strange from the standpoint of seeing a grown man “snake” his way across a room to eat an entire burger in one computer-augmented bite.

My curiosity for watching other culture’s take on the common fast food commercial filled, I then pondered how you might use media like this in a classroom. Provided you have YouTube unblocked in your district, or have the foresight to download the videos ahead of time, I started to think about the influence that media has on myself, and those around me. It’s a question that I remember being asked of me by teachers throughout my K-12 experience, so I decided to pay a visit to ReadWriteThink to see what sort of lesson plans and ideas they had for dealing with the influence of media and advertising on society.

I was rewarded with an excellent mini-unit of lessons about the influence of media and commercial advertising by Laurie Henry. She put together a four session activity that gets students reflecting and analyzing their own media consumption (print and video) to identify any hidden messages or attempt to interpret the messages being broadcast or printed. While her lessons seem a bit dated (they focus on print and television watching), it would be very easy to adapt her guiding questions and discussion points to web video, product placement in movies and video games, and a other forms of commercial media.

What I really didn’t enjoy about the lesson was the culminating activity for the unit, which asked the students to write a reflective piece on how advertising affects our culture. When dealing with visual media, whether it’s print, video, still images, etc. I think it’s important to respond to it with a similar form of media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t write about it, in fact I would require the writing portion myself, but it would only serve as a reflective piece to then build a media response to the commercial messages in question. In other words, let students respond to covert commercial messages with their own commercials, or create their own print or digital advertisements in response to those found in magazines and websites. It’s time to adapt good lessons and reflection to the reality of today, if not for the sake of being media savvy, but at least for the humor and curiosity to be found in the way other cultures and individuals attempt to manipulate others through commercial messages.

2 Comments

  1. I regret watching the first video from the standpoint that I will never get those precious moments of my life back. It is amazing to me that we as a culture never seem to stop enjoying the extreme. When is enough enough? I agree with your opinions about using similar media in her assignment, however I know that time can be an issue as well with all of the curriculum we have to teach. This often is the issue in elementary education as well. It is hard for me to teach multiple forms of media and have the kids be good at it. Thanks for the post. Enjoyed it as always.

    • Never regret anything…except maybe a Burger King tattoo 🙂

      The issue you bring up about time Derk is a red herring (in my own opinion that is). Although the curriculum becomes compacted, and we have an increasing load of “content” to get through, critical thinking skills, the ability to make inferences, and the process standards that are at the forefront of the Common Core Standards have never changed. It’s up to the classroom teacher to find the balance between the two, or for district and building admin to find a way to structure curriculum so that those skills are being developed along with the presentation of content. Time will always be a factor no matter what’s happening.

      You don’t have to teach the students how to be good at creating the media for now, but it’s best to start experimenting, because when the Common Core kicks in big time it will be expected of teachers,

      “The standards require that students gain, evaluate, and present increasingly complex information, ideas, and evidence through listening and speaking as well as through media.” (http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/key-points-in-english-language-arts)

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