Insurance Commercials and Analysis

What does Allstate, State Farm, and American Family all have in common?

That’s right; they’re all trying to sell you their brand of insurance–everything from car to home to life. Seeing the commonality is easy, but seeing those minute differences may be a completely different story.

Getting young students to understand the concepts associated with analysis can be trying. When most students hit ninth grade they are just emerging from being concrete thinkers to abstract thinkers–their minds finally capable of grasping deeper concepts–but many don’t really know how to use this new form of thinking. The word analysis can be scary sounding, or probably more so just boring sounding. When we’re young, having the foresight to see the benefits of analysis is nearly impossible. It’s my job as an educator, and specifically as an English teacher, to illuminate the benefits of analysis to them. This is wear insurance commercials come in.

I’m a big fan of using media in the classroom. Lets face it; we are teaching children and teens in a post-modern age of computer technology where almost every single one of my high school students is caring a miniature pocket computer (smart phone) in their pocket. They are inundated with media all–the–time. To me, using media in my classroom to show a point of reference or to teach a concept is a “no duh” instance of using modern instruction practices. While at an AP workshop, I came across a strategy of using commercials to teach analysis. I immediately latched on to the idea and schemed to use it in my classroom immediately. What I came up with was, of course, the use of various insurance commercials to prove my point.

The insurance idea was inspired initially by my Dad being an Allstate agent and admittedly, I love the mayhem commercials as much as anyone. From there I just devised a plan to use three top competitors commercials for my students to view and discuss. Here’s how it all worked:

1. I chose two commercials from each brand . (Allstate, State Farm, American Family)

2. We watched a single company’s commercials back to back, and then I had them respond on a scrap sheet of paper to the questions of  “What is the company trying to do?” and “How are they doing it?”

3. Once they had written down responses we talked about what they wrote down. Most observed that they were selling insurance and using persuasion, and that they were using humor or emotion to get your attention.

4. Once all three companies had been talked about and we had answered both questions for each company, I then had them draw out the conclusion that they were all doing the same thing, but then having them realize that they were doing it very differently. Sure humor is being used in both Allstate and State Farm commercials, but Allstate has an underlying fear tactic their using where the consumer looks miserable after the accident that should have insurance for whereas State Farm shows instant gratification with the instantaneous emergence of the agent at the singing of a jingle and the consumer looks satisfied. Finally, American Family doesn’t use humor at all, but does play to our pride and desires to protect what is ours–“the American dream.”

5. Once the dust settles from the discussion, I reveal to them that they just achieved analysis in one of its simplest forms–comparing and contrasting. I end the discussion by pointing out to them that one day they too will be insurance consumers and they’ll be making a choice for themselves. Will they be able to spot how a company is trying to sell to them versus another? Simple analysis will save them money one day. This all of course comes back around to doing the same tactic with something that is read or viewed, and that is precisely my point to my students.

Feel free to use this in your own classroom or some form of it. The lesson takes only about twenty to thirty minutes so it can easily be paired with another lesson that supports this one. Enjoy!

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