More Schools Slapping Ads On Every Possible Surface To Cover Budget Shortfalls

As regulators in Washington make efforts to limit how companies market their products directly to the youth of America, public schools struggling for cash have opened the floodgates to advertisers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently focused on one suburban school district which has made a deal to place more than 200 ads — some as large as 5’x10′ — on the walls, floors, lockers, locker-room benches, and cafeteria tables of its elementary, middle and high schools. For access to the district’s nearly 11,000 students, its budget gets a cash injection of around $400,000. A huge help for a district that cut its budget by $3 million this year.

“It’s imperative we find alternate means to preserve our programs,” the district’s Assistant Superintendent explains. “We’d prefer to generate revenues rather than cut programs or increase class size.”

There are of course stipulations on the content of the ads.

Explains the Inquirer:

The ads must relate to health, education, nutrition, or student safety, and may not directly endorse products. They tout, among other things, reading and outdoor activities (the U.S. Library of Congress and the Ad Council); organizational skills (Post-it Notes), and concussion awareness (Dick’s Sporting Goods).

Across the Delaware River in New Jersey, public school buses will soon be decorated with ads.

Down in Orange County, FL, (the county that gave yours truly a high school diploma) schools are already raking in the cash from ads on lunch menus and debit cards with school logos.

Out on California, the L.A. School District has approved a corporate naming-rights deal it hopes could result in another $18 million.

The Minneapolis-based agency that made the deal with the Pennsylvania district says it has contracts for nine more in Minnesota and California.

“The school is a fallow playground for advertising brands to reach kids in an authoritative, credible environment where there’s an implied endorsement [by] the authorities,” says Paul Kurnit, a marketing professor at Pace University. He worries about “how well schools will be able to draw the line… We’ve got to be worried about product creep.”

To balance budgets, schools allow ads

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.