On Using School as an Ad Medium

Mothers are touchy about the things to which their kids are exposed, but a poll by Parenting magazine finds them willing to have their kids encounter a certain amount of advertising at school. Just 6 percent of respondents to the survey (fielded in January among mothers of school-age kids) agreed that “No advertising through a school channel is acceptable, whether it’s directed at kids or parents.”

The survey took as its premise the trade-off entailed in such advertising: Schools can get financial support for programs that could otherwise fall victim to budget cuts, in return for letting marketers use the school as a kind of ad medium. The mothers’ attitudes varied widely depending on the type and placement of such advertising. There was broad acceptance of free school supplies bearing advertiser logos, with 65 percent calling this “a good idea”; 27 percent termed it “a necessary evil,” while just 8 percent said “no way.” Also garnering “good idea” majorities were ads in school newsletters for parents (64 percent), ads on scoreboards at school sports events (64 percent) and ads in free educational magazines distributed to students (56 percent).

There was more resistance to advertiser logos on school team uniforms, with 36 percent saying “good idea,” 34 percent “necessary evil” and 31 percent “no way.” As for billboards on school property, an outright majority (52 percent) said “no way.” And there were even higher “no way” tallies for commercials on school-bus radios (68 percent) and commercials on in-classroom radio and TV broadcasts (78 percent).

One fine distinction: While 66 percent said “no way” to the notion of ads on the inside of school buses, 50 percent said the same about ads on the outside of buses.