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Decisions and Advertising

Category: Activities: Home | Age Group: 11-13


Making Wise Buying Decisions


Newspaper or magazine


Advertising is often directed to young children. It is important to learn what advertising is and its goal – to get people to buy a particular good or service. There are rules that govern legitimate advertising – so ads can’t “lie” – but they can tell only one side of a story. It is up to the consumer to make a good decision. You can share with your child the expression “caveat emptor” – meaning buyer beware – that is, the responsibility for a good buying decision lies mostly with the buyer. Emphasize how important it is to think carefully about advertising and use it to make good decisions – not to buy things that aren’t needed or that aren’t as good as other options. Understanding the impact of advertising is a skill that is required if a child is to develop skills to make good buying decisions in the future.

  • Talk with your child about what they think it means to be a smart shopper—and what is important to consider in order to make a good buying decision.
  • Tell them that advertising attempts to influence their thinking and how they may decide to use their money. Talk about how advertising aims to provide information to a consumer—but the best information that they can. The advertiser wants you to spend money on their product or service—and they can use different approaches to try and influence how you feel about a product.
  • Then, take some time to go through a newspaper and look at the different kinds of ads there are and the different approaches that advertisers can use. Attached is some background for you on the different approaches that advertisers can use—and it can be fun to spot the different ads for different products that use different techniques.
  • Next, watch some TV together and concentrate on the commercials to see the different ways that advertisers try to influence consumers’ thinking and buying decisions.
  • Discuss each commercial after viewing it. Was it a good ad? Was it effective? Would itmake the viewer want to buy that product? Talk about “good ads” and “bad ads” and what the difference is between the two for you and your child.
  • Finally, talk with your child about advertising that has influenced them. Have they ever wanted something based on an ad that, later, wasn’t like they thought it was—or they didn’t really need or want it after all?
  • Talk with your child about the importance of thinking about advertising as well as reading it, watching it, or listening to it, when making buying decisions.


BACKGROUNDER: Advertising Techniques*

You have heard it said that “If you tell people the same thing often enough, they will come to believe it.” Some advertisers will use this method, repeating their message over and over again in an ad or a series of ads over time. [Built Ford Tough!, “Eat Fresh,” “I’m Lovin It”]

This approach aims to have you “get on board,” “be in,” “get with it.” [Join “the Pepsi generation.”]

This is the effort by an advertiser to influence a consumer by having a celebrity associated with the good or service. The advertiser hopes that those who like and respect the celebrity will imitate the behaviour by using the product. [Michael Jordan running shoes. Ellen DeGeneres make-up.]

Emotional Appeal
This is where the advertiser seeks to draw upon one or more of the consumer’s emotions to influence the decision. [“That Long Distance Feeling—kittens and bathroom tissue—beer and the “Canadian rant”]

Good Will
Providing something for free—a free sample, a free issue, and so on. However, always remember that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”—someone always pays the cost. It’s a question of who pays and why. [“Four free CDs! Just sign up to buy one CD a month and you’ll get four free CDs!”]

Scare Techniques
Well, maybe not exactly scare techniques, but who wants to face the consequences of going around with bad breath, blotchy skin, or underarm odor, especially when the ads portray such awful consequences. [“Nick and Lotta were about to kiss when, all of a sudden, Lotta noticed Nick’s teeth. If only Nick had used…”]

Snob Appeal
These ads are designed to appeal to those who want to be seen as in the lead, on the move, those who have made it—and want others to know about it. These ads emphasize that if you have the product you are definitely “in” or among the “elite” or “successful.” [“If you need to know the price, you’re not interested.”]

Economic Appeal
This type of ad presents the “great deal”—no money down, no interest payments, and so on. Be on your toes and watch for those that are genuine deals and those that have catches to them or key points in the fine print. There can be very legitimate offers to help you pay for a purchase over time—such as equal payments over 24 months with no interest. But, in the fine print, it can say that if the amount isn’t paid in full within 24 months, all interest charges become payable for the full two years. So check that out and, if that’s the case, make sure you complete the payments within the 24 months. [“No payments for three years! That’s right, it can be yours and you don’t pay a cent for three years!”]

Comfort And Enjoyment
Some advertisers may attempt to present their product in relation to something that, although enjoyable, is largely unrelated to the product. For example, have you ever sat through a commercial wondering what on earth was being advertised—only to be surprised at the end? The purpose of the ad may simply have been to get your attention—not tell you anything about the product.

One method to attempt to influence your purchase is to present the product or service in a humorous way and hope that your laughter will carry over all the way to your buying decisions.

*Source: Rabbior, Gary. Money and Youth. Toronto: Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, 2012.