Target Audience

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 1 period
15 minutes
Materials: TV commercials (optional), TV/VCR (optional), magazines, newspapers


Students have already begun to see how persuasive techniques are used to target them as consumers. Now we will broaden the scope a bit, and take a look at the many ways in which writers and advertisers focus their persuasion tactics on specific target groups in society. Students will explore and try to describe the various persuasive tools used in advertisements, and identify who they are hoping to persuade. In order to explore the concept of target audience, the teacher will draw on examples from television commercials, magazine ads, newspaper columns, etc.

Students are now in the explore phase, finding out more about the various appeals that are used to entice and persuade specific groups of people.

Students will be able to:

1. Identify the target audience in persuasively written texts.
2. Define target audience in the context of persuasive appeals.

National English Education Standard
Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

Teacher Background
The instructor should already be familiar with the persuasive appeals used in various texts and advertising, and should be able to identify the target audience in a given text, or the group of people the writers wish to persuade. For example, an advertisement aimed at women may contain images, issues, and language which are directed at appealing to a woman’s preferences or priorities; these may include beauty, fashion, family, career, or health-related issues.

Resource Websites



1. Before students arrive, lay out a variety of magazines and newspapers for students to look at. If you have decided to use television commercials or other persuasive texts in this lesson, have them available as well. Select from one of your resources an advertisement aimed at women.

2. When students are settled, present the ad or commercial you have chosen. Ask students to analyze the ad by considering the following questions:

a) What is the first thing you notice about this ad? (Ask students for their observations)
b) What is the end goal of this advertisement? Is the goal to sell a product? What is the writer trying to promote?
c) If there is any text in the ad, what does it say? What do you notice about the language that they use?
d) If the ad is a commercial, what do you notice about the actors, music, sounds, and images used?
e) What type of person or group would be interested in this type of advertising? Why do you think that?

3. After spending 5-10 minutes analyzing the ad, focus on the last question. Most students should be able to determine that the advertising is aimed at women, but sometimes they struggle to identify the exact attributes which direct it toward that audience. Ask the students to think back to the particular details they observed at the beginning of discussion. You may want to have several similar ads directed at the same target audience to show similarities among them. You want students to ultimately understand that the group of people the ads are aimed at is called the “target audience”. This is who the writers are hoping to persuade.

4. Divide the students into groups of 3-4 people and allow them to select a variety of magazines and newspapers. Assign each group a particular target audience, such as women, men, teens, students, parents, the elderly, etc. Give the class about 20 minutes to search for several ads or articles which are directed specifically at their assigned audience. Students will need to identify what persuasive tools the writers are using in order to appeal to their target audience.

To wrap up this lesson, have each group present their findings and explain what appeals are used to target their assigned audience. If time allows, you may want to label some of these persuasive appeals with their formal titles.

If you wish, ask students to find and bring in an ad from a magazine or newspaper. Ask them to identify the target audience and the persuasive appeals used in the ad.

Embedded Assessment

Students will be assessed based on their discussion responses and group presentations. Ensure that the students understand the concept of target audience and can identify persuasive tools used to target specific groups of people.

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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