Parent Toolbox

Ad Detectives: How to deconstruct an ad

Help your girl become an ad detective

By the time a girl is 12, she has seen approximately 77,546 ads, with more than half those ads focusing on beauty to get girls and women to buy the products (The Representation Poject.). In our workshops and classes, we teach girls that the beauty industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and that they often profit by making girls and women feel like they need beauty products to measure up. We help girls understand how ads are put together to influence us, using the same key questions; below is a sample.

  1. What do you actually see going on this ad? Describe it factually.

Example: There is a woman in a yellow bikini, and her body fits media’s versision of the “perfect body.” We are being asked if we are “beach-body ready,” implying that to go to the beach, we better look like this woman.

  1. How would you describe the way that the main “character(s)” is feeling in this ad?

Example: She feels sexy, confident, and powerful.

  1. What is the promise that is being made in this ad? “If you buy ______________, then you will be ______________________.”

Example: If you buy and use Protein World supplelments, you will have a body like this and feel sexy and confident and powerful.

  1. Who is telling us this story? Look for the name of the company.

Example: Protein World

  1. Is there any truth to this promise?

Example: No. If I take these supplements, I won’t have a body like this woman’s.

  1. Who is NOT part of the this story? (Usually, it is people of color, people don’t meet media’s version of “perfect looking,” people who do not have high incomes, people with disabilities, people who are old, etc.)

​Example: Women who are old; women who don’t spend time at the beach; women with disabilities, women who can’t afford to spend their whole day working out, etc.

We go on teach girls how to strike back against ads like these by taking action. Note: this particular ad was banned from London subways because so many women complained that it was offensive!