The Advertising Effect: Selling to Schools

Jemile Safaraliyeva, Staff Writer

A research study conducted at the Arizona State University under the Commercialism in Education Unit deduced that there been a 473% increase in commercial activity within schools since from 1990 o 2001. Almost a decade after the fall of the economy, schools today find it hard to resist the offers by advertisers, who have the potential to fund programs within schools.

Advertising in schools is nothing new. With flashy logos on school websites and life-size posters hanging all around the halls, advertisers take advantage of schools with limited funds.

Yet advertisers are beginning to face new backlash from school communities which claim that students should be taught in unbiased surroundings, unaffected by their environment and free of advertisements.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Young people view more than 40,000 ads per year on television alone and increasingly are being exposed to advertising on the Internet, in magazines and in schools. This exposure may contribute significantly to childhood and adolescent obesity, poor nutrition, and cigarette and alcohol use.”

While WJ students are subject to the few “Got Milk” posters seen throughout the school, the community has pushed for an ad-free campus.

“We’re an independent school,” said business manager Kathleen Cosgrove. “There are solely those ads seen in stage production brochures and the phone directories and even then the ads are most often sponsored by the parents of students with businesses.”

If WJ students were to roam through less affluent schools, they would be exposed to ads on school buses and even bathroom stalls. Mike Roumph, vice-president of D.D. Marketing in Pueblo, CO, estimates that contracts with soft drink companies net a school on average of about $30 to $35 per student annually. The American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that more than 200 school districts have signed exclusive contracts with soft drink companies.

“All the vending machines that appear throughout the schools are fully funded by WJ,” said Cosgrove. “We haven’t given in to those funds yet.”

Cosgrove’s statement solidifies that WJ’s budget is stable and currently not in need of additional funds from advertisers.

A struggling economy, low budgets and dry school funds result in a perfect setting for advertisers. In fact, advertisers not only spread their voices through ads in schools, but they establish their audience as a base for propaganda because students are themselves consumers. They influence the decisions of their parents and grow up to become tomorrow’s consumers.

In the last decade, the question of advertiser’s persuasive and inappropriate nature has been the subject of recent writing prompts on AP Language and Composition tests. On the 1998 and 2007 AP tests, the questions challenged the substance of advertising in schools and questioned whether it is worth trading propaganda for fostered free trade and prosperity in schools.