Tuesday, May 09, 2006


This past Friday I recieved a phone call from a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, she was doing a story on school bus advertising. She interviewed me and the article was printed in the business section of today's Free Press - MARKETING: Ad lessons.

MARKETING: Ad lessons
School districts raise money through messages on buses
May 9, 2006


"Chances are, when you were a youngster, advertisers most often tried to grab your attention through Saturday morning cartoons on the boob tube.
Now, school buses are becoming the hot place for marketers to sell their wares to children.
Ypsilanti and Hazel Park recently contracted with InSight Media, a Pittsburgh company, to get ads on buses serving thousands of Michigan's K-12 students. And other Michigan school districts are considering the move, including Detroit Public Schools, the state's largest district, which says it could put ads in its 500 buses by fall. At $30 per month per bus, the potential ad earnings would be $6,000, based on the district's portion of the profits. Of Detroit Public Schools' 130,000 students, about 16,000 of them ride buses every day.
"There's some very serious consideration for it," said Jovon Boyer, Detroit schools' director for student transportation.
Under financial pressures brought by shrinking budgets, districts nationwide and in Michigan are looking for alternative funding. Advertising in buses is one way they're drumming up additional money to pay for everything from teacher salaries to school maintenance. InSight Media, which solicits advertisers for districts, said it pays them 40% of the profits from the ads, which require a minimum 3-month contract.
Advertising to kids
Advertising to students, however, raises unique concerns.
Last year when Plymouth-Canton Schools approved a measure to allow the board to sell school naming rights to companies -- think Meijer High School or Ford Motor Elementary -- some parents questioned whether that would be taking marketing to children too far. With school-bus ads, one child advocate is concerned about having ads about fast food and other products that might be harmful to children without the benefit of parental input.
"A growing perspective is that parental involvement is important in mediating what children see through explaining, educating, qualifying, etc., for their kids," said Cheryl Somers, an associate professor of educational psychology at Wayne State University.
Somers said because parents aren't on buses, the ads should be limited to wholesome messages such as those touting the importance of studying or drinking water.
Hazel Park plans to put ads in buses in the fall. The district, which will have a committee decide which ads will be put in the district's 10 buses, said ad content will be considered carefully.
"This day and age, we're looking for sources of revenue anywhere we can find them," said Fred Nix, consultant for general services for Hazel Park schools. "But advertising is something that ... has to be very kid-friendly."
In Ypsilanti -- the only Michigan district to already have ads in buses -- a small group made up of parents, board members, teachers and students picks ads for the district's 40 buses. Since December, the 4,300-student district has made a modest profit of $600 from the bus ads.
"For us, it's a win-win situation because we don't have to do anything but provide the inside of our buses and approve the ads," said Emma Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Ypsilanti schools who said it hasn't gotten any complaints about ads.
Amy Doyle, a mother of a fifth- and seventh-grader and board member who's on the selection committee, said she wouldn't approve any ads the district or parents might deem unhealthy for children.
"We want the ads to promote community businesses, community values and positive lifestyles," she said.
The Ypsilanti Area Federal Credit Union's school-bus ads show a group of kids standing next to a big, blue piggybank overflowing with a dollar bill and coins and say "It's never too early to start saving for your future."
"If they remember our logo now or later in life, that's great. If they learn the underlying message about saving, that's great, too," said Greg Gurka, the credit union's executive vice president.
For many advertisers, being able to reach impressionable students is priceless.
"It's transit advertising, so it's like any other bus -- advertisers have a captive audience," said Bruce Vanden Bergh, an advertising professor at Michigan State University.

Contact KORTNEY STRINGER at 313-223-4479 or stringer@freepress.com.


At 12:34 PM, Blogger O's fan said...

Booooo, they didn't even print your name. I know Insight's the key, but still...

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Mrs. AP said...

yeah, and no pithy quotes either?!

At 8:00 PM, Blogger Just Shu said...

yea, what a bummer. She even double checked the spelling of my name. I thought for sure she would quote me

At 8:55 AM, Blogger The Zwicker said...

In yesterday's Free Press was a quiz on news in the paper's previous week. One question was what did Ypsilanti approve for its school buses. I didn't even need to look at the choices.

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Just Shu said...

nice...if you get it right is there a prize involved?>


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