Exercise 1.6. Advertisement as a means of manipulation


Understanding that a person is constantly influenced by information; develop an ability to recognize the manipulation in advertising.


15 min 


Team work

Material needed 

Overhead projector to display ad sample; sheets of paper and pencils for sketches. 


Source: MediaNavigator.org

Description of exercise: The trainer asks the participants: “Remember how exactly you brush your teeth in the morning? How much paste do you squeeze on a toothbrush?” Then he asks the group to sketch out a toothbrush and the amount of toothpaste that they use. The participants do not make comments or discuss their results until the task has been completed by everyone.

After completing the exercise, the trainer asks the participants to put up pictures so that everyone can see the results and asks them to evaluate how much toothpaste they use (as a rule, the amount of paste drawn by half of the participants fully covers the bristles, by the third of participants covers half of the bristles, and another third of participants draws a pea-sized amount).

A question to the participants: “Do you know how much paste is recommended to use for brushing your teeth?” In the group there will necessarily be 3-4 people who will say that as recommended by doctor a pea-sized amount of paste is sufficient.

Then the trainer asks a question for discussion: “Why do the majority of us use much more paste than is necessary?” Participants will almost immediately answer that this happens because of information provided in the advertisement of this product. In television advertising, on advertising leaflets and tubes of toothpaste we often see large amount of paste which fully covers bristles.

To sum up the discussion, the trainer says: “How many of you paid attention to exactly how much paste was applied to a toothbrush in advertising? As we see, most of you draw that amount of toothpaste which we see in advertising, although we know that we need a lot less. This is a vivid example of how media influence us, including advertising. When you watch ads, you didn’t even realize how it affects you, however, you are now doing exactly what the toothpaste producer wants customers to do. You use it in large quantities and, therefore, buy it more often, bringing profit to the toothpaste manufacturer. ”

The trainer offers participants to write down a word that may be new to them: “suggestion” derives from Latin Suggestio which means psychological impact, changing thinking processes, feelings and reactions, mostly unnoticed by those who are subjected to such influence.

The trainer asks the participants what other examples of subconscious influence in advertising they can recall.

Summarizing questions to participants:

  1. Why is it important to realize information supplied to us?
  2. Is it possible to protect ourselves from undesirable effects of advertising or other information?
  3. What is the name of the process of the subconscious impact on the human psyche? 


Tips to the trainer:

Before the exercise, it is advisable to print out advertising samples of toothpaste and chewing gum. They can also be demonstrated using the overhead projector.