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Does Media Literacy Work? An Empirical Study of Learning How to Analyze Advertisements

Renee Hobbs

Many school districts are implementing media literacy programs in high schools that teach about the advertising production process and introduce students to techniques for critically analyzing media messages. In this study, students who learned how to critically analyze advertising as part of their Grade 11 English language arts class were compared to a demographically matched control group who did not receive such instruction. Four weeks of classroom activities involving the analysis of the purpose, target audience, point of view, and persuasive techniques used in advertising were provided as a regular part of classroom instruction in English language arts to 293 students by seven regular classroom teachers. Compared to the control group, students gained increased knowledge of the pre-production processes of advertising. Statistically significant differences were also found in measures of students' ability to analyze a print ad, including the ability to identify target audience, to describe construction techniques used to attract and hold attention, and the ability to identify the implied message subtext.


Hobbs, R. (2004). Does Media Literacy Work? An Empirical Study of Learning How to Analyze Advertisements. Advertising & Society Review 5(4), doi:10.1353/asr.2004.0014.

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