Let me start by acknowledging that we have a client who has signed up some prominent school districts around the United States who have agreed to allow outlets like in-school video screens with ads and scoreboard sponsorships (among others) to be displayed at their schools. More than 500,000 students already have been reached via these outlets and the number is growing rapidly.
There’s no mystery as to why a school district would sign up to participate in programs like these. With increased pressure on school budgets showing no sign of abating, new sources of revenue to fund a wide range of educational programs are essential.
Last week my local paper printed an article in which one town had agreed to allow the sponsorship of an outdoor scoreboard. That practice has been going on for quite some time. The superintendent of schools in a neighborhood town chimed in by noting that his board would not allow any advertising in the schools at all. When people think about advertising in public schools traditionalists gasp in mock horror thinking that before long the school will look like the outfield fence at a minor league baseball park. While that is unlikely to happen it does offer reason for debate and perhaps even concern. The idea of having advertising supported in-school TV monitors that would broadcast information on behalf of the school and district horrifies those same traditionalists to an even greater degree. I believe that the ends more than justify the means.
Many (most?) students in public schools today have mobile phones with an increasing number having smartphones. While school districts attempt to limit the usage of those devices while the students are in school, at the least students use the phones between classes, on breaks and during lunch hours. Since the phones often have full web access, there are shows broadcast with ads, ad supported websites and all kinds of ad supported content. How is having a monitor broadcasting information (and yes some ads) any different? It’s not as if the school is going to broadcast the latest episode of iCarly, Twilight or Jersey Shore.
Public school education in the U.S. is facing a host of challenges – underpaid teachers (and there are overpaid tenured ones in droves), increasing special education needs and requirements as well as decreasing local tax revenues. Finding new sources of revenue to help close the gaps and support good school programs has never been more important.
What do you think? Should there be ad supported content platforms within public schools?