Advertising in Schools

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Melissa Green

Advertising in Schools

Although this semester our class has discussed the different types of advertising in the marketplace, one technique that was not discussed is that of advertising in schools. This idea is a growing technique that if conducted the right way, could perhaps benefit not only corporate organizations, but also schools and students. However, there are many critics, along with parents that feel advertising in schools is a horrible idea and could only lead to harm.

Many advertisers view children as a profitable three-in-one market. That is, 1) As buyers themselves 2) As influencers of their parents purchases, and 3) As a future adult customer. Every year, children have an estimated $15 billion of their own money, of which they spend $11 billion of it on products such as toys, clothes, candy and snacks. Children also influence at least $160 billion in parental purchases. Generally speaking, today's children have more money to spend than ever before.

Companies know this and find that advertising to the 'youth of the nation' can be beneficial and lead to future dedicated customers.

Because of the increase in children's spending power in recent decades, advertisers have closely targeted children as consumers. New advertising strategies aimed at children have been steadily growing and expanding. The toy-related program, or program length commercial (which is just like a infomercial) is developed to sell toys, and stirred public attention and debates. Along with this form of advertising, 900-number telephone services were accused of being aimed at children.

In the 1980's, children got their own TV networks, radio networks, magazines, newspapers, kids' clothing brands, and other high-price items such as video games and other high-tech products. Other new advertising strategies include kids' clubs, store displays directed at children, direct mailing to children, and sponsored school activities.

At first glance, selling corporate sponsorship rights to pay for school activities looks like a win-win situation. Needy schools get resources they need. Companies get new marketing opportunities that can build brand loyalty. After all, advertising in schools is nothing new. Districts have long used ads from local businesses to help pay the costs of school newspapers, yearbooks, and athletic programs. Even here at CBU our athletic department sells ads for 'Sports Media Guides' to local institutions as well as national organizations.

A growing number of companies are offering schools money for a chance to market their products directly to students. As budgets shrink, schools must find ways to get extra funding. Many schools are doing away with fund-raising and have begun to look at corporate dollars to fund just about everything. Signing contracts with these companies seems like an easy way to get the money they need. Schools need funding for in-school activities and equipment, and, in order to reduce the number of children going home to empty houses, they need to fund many after-school activities. Product advertisements can be found almost everywhere in schools. They are most frequently found in stadiums, gymnasiums, school cafeterias, hallways, and on textbook covers. Some schools across the nation are even putting advertisements on school buses.

So what types of advertising are out there in our schools? There are different categories that ads can fall into. The following categories can represent most the advertising techniques used in our schools today and give a description of how they work.

Types of Advertising

1) In-school advertisements

In-school ads are forms of advertising that can be found on billboards, on school buses, on scoreboards, in school hallways, in soft drink machines, or on sports uniforms. This type of advertising is also found in product coupons and in give-aways that are given to students.

2) "Exclusive rights" contracts

A company gives money to schools that carry ONLY their products. Extra money can also be given if a schools' sales exceed a certain amount(quota).

3) Corporate-sponsored educational materials and programs

Sponsored educational materials include free or low-cost items which can be used for instruction. Examples of these may include; multimedia teaching kits, videotapes, software, books, posters, activity sheets, and workbooks. While some of these materials may be ad-free, others may contain advertising for the producer of the item, or they may contain biased information aimed at swaying students towards a company's product or service.

4) Corporate-sponsored contests and incentive programs

This is where students compete for prizes by selling, buying or collecting labels for a certain product. These contests and incentive programs bring brand names into the schools along with the promise of such rewards as free pizzas, cash, points towards buying educational equipment, or trips and other prizes.

5) Ads in classroom materials and programs

Ads in classroom materials include any commercial messages in magazines or video programming used in school. A perfect example of this type of advertising is "Channel One". Channel One is a 12-minute daily news show for students in grades 6 through 12 that includes two minutes of age-appropriate ads for products like jeans and soft drinks.

In exchange for airing the program each day at the same time for three years, Channel One gives schools a satellite dish, a cable hookup, a television monitor for each classroom, and an agreement to service the equipment for the three years. While some state school systems had originally said 'No' to Channel One, the company reports to be present in some 350,000 classrooms.

So what types of guidelines are set to insure that in-school advertising is done correctly and does not become overly exploited? Those who support the call for guidelines include educational groups such as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, The National Parent Teacher Association, and the National Education Association. The Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Business(SOCAP) and Consumers International are two consumer interest groups that have formulated guidelines for sponsored materials. These guidelines suggest that...

" ... education materials should be accurate, objective, clearly written, nondiscriminatory, and noncommercial."

(Karpatkin & Holmes)

In dealing with the issues of in-school commercialism, Karpatkin & Holmes suggest a three-pronged approach that includes:

* Reviewing all sponsored materials and activities and holding them to the same standards as other similar items by using the SOCAP guidelines.

* Pursuing noncommercial partnerships with businesses and rejecting the notion that it is ethical to bring advertising into the schools to provide materials or funds.

* Begin the teaching of media literacy in elementary school, to educate children to be critical readers of advertising, propaganda, and other media messages.

Groups that support advertising in schools have very strong arguments to back their case. It seems that there is a large area for investment in advertising in schools. It also appears that if handled correctly, advertising techniques in schools can lead to the raising of an overall helpful, efficient way to 'fundraise'.

Although advertising in schools may bring needed increases in funds, it is not without controversy. Many people are opposed to advertising in schools. They feel that children are being exploited for profit because big companies feel students are a captive, impressionable audience.

Is there any way to balance the true goals and purposes of advertising in schools? Perhaps the best way is to have each school decide what amount and types of advertising in their schools is acceptable. And although advertising in schools seems to be a great way of obtaining funds for school activities, every school board should definitely be sure they know what they are getting into before signing any contracts with big time corporations.

In-school Advertising

Grace Farrell

Promotional Strategy

Dr. Peyton



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Consumers Union Education Services(CUES). 1990. Selling America's Kids: Commercial Pressures on Kids of the 90's.

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Karpatkin, Rhoda, H. and Anita Holmes. 1995. Making schools ad-free zones. Educational Leadership 53(Sep, 1):72-76.

McNeal, James U. 1990. Kids as customers. New York: Lexington Books.

McNeal, James U. "Planning Priorities for Marketing to Children". The Journal of Business Strategy. 1991.