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Your Client's Ad in Public Schools
How to place ads in school buildings across the U.S.

Diego Vasquez
Media Life Magazine
January 20, 2009

We’re well into January, meaning kids who had been on winter break are back at school, and for marketers it's an ideal time and ideal venue as well for reaching them.

While school advertising is closely monitored, lest it be too intrusive or deliver the wrong message, when done right it can be very effective, reaching a captive audience with little competition for students' attention from other advertisers.

As marketers well know, kids are themselves important consumers, and they can be important influencers in family buying decisions, and advertisers with the right message have an abundance of ways to reach them.

They include ads on school supplies such as book covers and bookmarks, in-school product sampling, and advertiser-sponsored special events, such as assemblies. There are even broadcast options such as ads on school bus radio and in-class TV.

To find out how to get your client’s message in schools, read on.

This is one in a Media Life series on buying the new out-of-home venues. They appear weekly.

Fast Facts

Advertising at schools to kids in kindergarten through 12th grade.

In most areas of out-of-home advertising, there's an abundance of vendors, but that's less the case with school advertising. There are but a few major players with networks spanning a number of facilities. For this article, Media Life looked at Planet News and Views, Kaleidoscope Youth Marketing, Alloy Media + Marketing, Channel One and Bus Radio.

How it works
School advertising has a number of advantages, and chief is the opportunity to reach kids where other advertisers are not crowded around.

Further, school campaigns have to earn the approval of local administrators, and that serves as something of an endorsement, whether intended or not.

Also, much of school advertising has an educational element to it, as in the case of, say, a poster celebrating Black History Month provided by the advertiser. That makes it seem less like advertising.

The challenge, of course, is to provide that educational element while steering clear of the many consumer groups that would just as soon see all advertising disappear from schools and actively campaign to ban the more intrusive forms. Two are Commercial Alert in Washington, D.C., and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood in the Boston area.

They've had some success.

The state of New York has banned all forms of broadcast advertising, including those that provided Bus Radio, which airs on school buses, and Channel One, the TV network that provides ad-supported news programming in classrooms. And South Carolina late last year banned all forms of advertising on school buses.

No state has yet imposed an all-out ban on school advertising, but bills have been introduced, and both Massachusetts and Vermont are expected to reconsider the issue this year.

School ad programs are run by companies that have longstanding relationships with a number of schools across the country, and they can be trusted to advise advertisers on what are appropriate ad messages. Their networks allow for targeting nationally, regionally or locally.

The most common form of advertising is through branded school supplies provided at no cost to students, such as folders, bookmarks, book covers and locker calendars and posters.

Another is sponsoring educational posters, which in some cases are updated monthly to feature events then in the news and can be used by teachers in their instruction.

Sampling within schools is another option for brands whose products kids commonly use, for example, school supplies or juice boxes.

Advertisers can also sponsor school events and assemblies with an education theme, such as a health and wellness program in gym classes or a presentation on Women's History Month.

In some cases, advertisers can target parents with programs through local parent-teacher organizations .

Other options include Bus Radio and Channel One. Bus Radio airs looped one-hour radio programs on buses, with a different one in the morning and afternoon and eight minutes each hour set aside for ads. Channel One runs a daily 12-minute newscast in middle schools and high schools.

Advertising in schools is available in most every market, though restrictions can vary from one to another. What's okay in one market may not be in another.

Public school enrollment hit a record high last fall, when the federal government estimated that almost 50 million students would be attending U.S. public schools.

Branded school supplies typically receive wide exposure over many months. One study looked at a campaign involving 10 million “Charlotte’s Web” bookmarks that were handed out at elementary schools and found that 97 percent of schools reported the bookmarks were still in use more than three months later

How it is measured
Ad impressions are determined from enrollment and attendance data, and some advertisers will chose to use a third-party measurement firm as well, such as Carroll Media Services.

What product categories do well
Popular categories include food and beverages, DVDs, videogames, TV networks, fast food, toys and games, and children’s books.

School advertising is a mass medium that hits all demographics, but advertisers can target by ethnicity, age and income by selecting schools in specific communities and neighborhoods within markets.

Making the buy
Kaleidoscope Youth Marketing provides advertising on school supplies, product sampling, and sponsored school events and assemblies. Pricing varies depending on the program but CPMs range between $50 to $100.

Planet News and Views provides advertising on school supplies and also sponsored posters, as well as a monthly news magazine poster for classrooms. A four-week campaign on bookmarks targeting kids 6-11 has a CPM under $2.

Alloy Media + Marketing provides media boards in busy school areas, custom and branded book covers, bookmarks, locker calendars and other premiums, sampling programs, and promotional and event-based programs.

Channel One runs a daily 12-minute newscast that’s seen in middle schools and high schools that includes commercial spots.

Bus Radio runs looped one-hour radio programs on buses, with a different one in the morning and afternoon. There are programs specialized for elementary, middle school and high school students, with up to eight minutes per hour set aside for ad messages. CPMs average about $12.

Who’s already in schools
School advertisers include McDonald’s, Disney, Walmart, Microsoft, Cartoon Network, Lego and the military.

What they’re saying
"We work with an advisory board across schools to make sure programs are compelling for the schools because we want to enhance the environment and add value. It can work across any advertising category. It’s all about finding the educational component." -- Mindelle R. Ziff, president and founder of Kaleidoscope Youth Marketing.





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