Now, cash-strapped schools turn to bus ads

Local districts are selling advertising space to bring in some much-needed funds, but do the ads send the wrong message to kids?

By Jonathan Berr Mar 7, 2013 8:37AM
Image: Student in classroom (Digital Vision/Getty Images)In these days of government budget cutting on all levels, more than a half-dozen states are allowing school districts to sell advertising on school buses, a growing trend that alarms some experts.

The ads give advertisers the opportunity to exploit students because they're a captive audience, says Josh Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Besides, Golin notes, the revenue districts earn from advertising won't do much to help alleviate their financial problems.

Kids also take the ads they see in school seriously, he says, because the district has endorsed a product.
"That sends a very powerful message to a child," he told MSN Money.

Medford, N.J., a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia, is a case in point. The Medford Township School District recently became the first in New Jersey to allow bus ads. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, a district Medford's size (with about 3,000 students) could expect to earn about $72,000 a year. Its annual budget is about $50 million.

Superintendent Joseph Del Rossi denied that children are a captive audience for the bus ads. In fact, the district, like many others, is eager for more advertising inside its buildings in heavily trafficked areas such as stairwells, though it has yet to strike this kind of deal.

"Every bit helps," Del Rossi told MSN Money. "From my vantage point, I don't see how it exploits children."

The Medford bus ads are for a local supermarket. The district doesn't allow discussions of politics, guns or alcohol, and district officials must approve all messages.

Besides New Jersey, school bus ads are allowed in Massachusetts, Utah, Texas, Nevada, Tennessee, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. A bill to allow them is pending in Missouri. Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood expects more such legislation to be introduced.
 
--Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.
 

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7Comments
Mar 7, 2013 10:46AM
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i say go for it!  cash is king!  put sponsorship everywhere!  no eyes shall be too small to see more ads!
Mar 7, 2013 2:04PM
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I'm already sick of the barage of ads in the U.S.  It makes me sick.  Even cable T.V. that we pay for has commercials, not to mention ads during sporting events.  It's everywhere!  No wonder kids are materialistic.
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Why not? The movie Idiocracy becomes reality!
Mar 7, 2013 10:50AM
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Hey...No Problem....make them like the buses in the city...They could advertise "Eat at Joe's"...or even Pampers, for the other younger siblings who will get on the bus in a few years.   Why Not!!!

Mar 7, 2013 2:41PM
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Stupid idea, most people can't drive and read signs at the same time safely. Why put children at more risk than they already are?
Jun 19, 2013 12:09PM
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I see no difference than putting the ads up in the sports areas of the schools. It saves tax payers money and helps the schools get things they need.  As long as they are appropriate for the kids to see, I see no problem at all.
Mar 7, 2013 7:16PM
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I SEE NO PROBLEM UNLESS THE SCHOOL ENDORSES THINGS HARMFUL TO STUDENTS, SUCH AS TOBACCO OR ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. SAME WITH STADIUMS AND FENCES. SCHOOLS NEED REVENUE!
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