Channel One News = Bad Santa. Schools receive little for opening doors to advertisers.

December 24, 2013

School marketers have long over promised school board members, and now after years of under delivering, school officials are mad as heck.


From Philadelphia Business Journal 

Dec 19, 2013

School advertising equals pocket change, not a gold mine

School students may see much more advertising if a new bill passes.

Samantha Freda, Contributor

At the start of the new year, City Council will decide whether or not to allow advertising in Philadelphia schools to generate revenue for the struggling school district. The bill’s proponents have touted it as a way to make millions, but there is considerable research indicating that it could turn out to be a financial flop.

In 2011, the Pennsbury School District tried the same approach but discontinued the program due to insignificant financial gain. Ads were placed on surfaces inside the schools, mostly consisting of public service announcements. The advertising initiative was estimated to generate $424,000 toward the annual budget but instead “the extent of the profits was only a fraction of what was projected,” said Ann Langtry, spokeswoman for the Pennsbury School District.

School districts in Houston and Colorado also experienced less-than-lucrative results from school advertising. The Houston Independent School District of Texas and Jefferson County Public Schools in Colorado reported that revenues from advertising programs raised only 0.01 percent of their respective budgets in the 2010-11 school year, according to this reportfrom Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer-advocacy organization.

In fact, Public Citizen sent a letter to Council President Darrell Clarke urging him to reconsider his sponsorship of the bill. On Dec. 3, Public Citizen President Robert Weissmantestified before the Committee on Rules, further urging them to withdraw the bill.

“We understand that the financial pressures Philadelphia schools currently face have prompted you to identify nontraditional sources of funding,” Weissman said. “However, our research has shown that it will raise insignificant amounts of revenue.”

The Philadelphia Advertising on School Property bill was introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown and was co-sponsored by Clarke. On Dec. 3, the City Council Committee on Rules approved the bill. Advertisements for alcohol and tobacco products are prohibited, as well as the placement of advertisements on historical property.

“Given the enormity of the fiscal crisis facing the School District, specifically the $304 million budget deficit in this fiscal year, we must collectively explore and pursue a long-term, innovative, responsible funding solution that brings new dollars to our cash strapped system,” Reynolds-Brown said.

A reoccurring figure in Reynolds-Brown’s campaign for school advertising is the $5.9 million she claims New York earned for ads placed on the district’s school buses. But with a $23.8 billion overall budget in the 2012-2013 school year for the New York City Department of Education, that frequently referenced figure amounts to 0.002 percent of the annual budget.

Why doesn’t school advertising work?

A researcher at Public Citizen said agencies serve as middlemen between the advertisers and the school districts. The potential financial success of the advertising programs are often highly exaggerated, but the agencies have no contractual obligation to generate the initially estimated revenue. Thus, revenue is often lower than expected.

“These middlemen are taking a significant cut (30 percent to 50 percent) of the already negligible revenue that is generated,” Eva Seidelman of Public Citizen said. “Vulnerable school districts may be willing to accept ads at low rates, because they have less bargaining power to negotiate as compared to corporate advertisers who can simply decide to advertise elsewhere.”

Reyolds-Brown has delayed a second vote before City Council because of overwhelming responses from her constituents regarding the content of the ads. She is still committed to having the bill passed and recently suggested that a parent’s advisory panel could be established to weigh in on the nature of the ads that will be selected. However, the ultimate veto power for the content and placement of ads lies with the School Reform Commission. The Philadelphia bill remains vague about what kinds of advertisements will be permissible.

Kirstin Larson, research analyst for ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management at theUniversity of Oregon said that businesses are eager to tap into the growing youth market and are increasingly turning to cash-strapped schools.

“As schools with strained budgets struggle to meet demands for improvement and acquire expensive technologies and learning materials for students, many businesses are attempting to obtain access to these students for their own purposes.”


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