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February 7, 2016  
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In this activity you'll learn about some common persuasion techniques and propaganda strategies used in political advertisements. You'll find out the strategies that political candidates use to make themselves look good and their opponents look bad. Then, you'll get to create your own political campaign commercial. So practice your cheesey smile, fine-tune your finger-pointing, and get started!


1. Go to the Propaganda Analysis Home Page

  • Read the home page and define the word "propaganda" in your own words.


  • What examples of propaganda have you seen lately? Think of any commercials, public service announcements, or political statements that may contain propaganda, and try to list at least three.

  • Select "Table of Contents" and read all of the items under "Common Techniques."

    • On a blank page, list each technique and summarize its meaning.

    • On the same page next to your list, write down your own examples for each technique.

  • Read the first page of each link under "Logical Fallacies." For the second page, explain why each of the three examples is an example of propaganda rather than a realistic statement.

  • Find an example of political propaganda in a newspaper or news magazine.

    • Who makes the statement?


    • Which part of the statement contains faulty logic? Explain why this logic is faulty.



    • Why do you think this person or group made this exaggerated statement?



    2. Go to the PBS Ad-Watcher's Toolkit

    • Browse this site for any information on political advertising and campaign strategies. Be sure to read:

      • How to Read Campaign Ads

      • 10 Structural Features That Create Meaning in Political Ads

    • Go to the "Dissect an Ad" page. Look at the ads that are sequenced here along with the commentary on their composition. For each ad state:

      • What is the overall tone of the ad--positive or negative?


      • What camera techniques are employed to convey this tone?


      • What negative messages are sent?


      • What positive messages are sent?


      • Which of the propaganda techniques from the last site are used in this ad?


      • What do you think is the single most compelling message this ad sends (even if you don't believe the message)?


    3. Now you're going to create your own campaign commercial.

    • Get into groups and choose one member to be a "candidate." The other members of the group will be on the candidate's election committee. The candidate's opponent will be a fictitious "John Doe," "Mary Doe," or some more creative name the class comes up with.

    • Each group will be assigned to a different technique as listed under "Common Techniques" at the propaganda site. In your ad, you must employ your assigned technique. Other students will try to guess which technique you have employed.

    • Use the information you have read at the PBS site, including information from the "dissect an Ad" page, to help you devise a thirty-second TV commercial.

    • Present your commercials to the class.

    • Your teacher may also ask you to create a print ad or campaign pamphlets. Design this ad or pamphlet keeping in mind the advice given at the sites you have visited.

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