This Ride to School Brought To You By…

As cash-hungry states look for new sources of revenue, several are now allowing advertisers to put paid messages on the sides of school buses.

Currently, seven states allow advertising on school buses: Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.  Six others are considering the idea: Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Washington.

The Pros and Cons of School Bus Advertising

Those in favor say states need the money, the ads are primarily for adults who see the buses, and if ads on buses will keep teachers from losing their jobs, why not?  Advertisers especially like gaining access to areas that have been off limits to billboards, such as neighborhoods.

Those opposed say it’s naïve to think kids aren’t going to notice the ads.  They believe going to school should be a pitch-free experience.

I side with those who are opposed to ads on school buses.  The American Psychological Association says kids younger than eight are unable to “recognize advertising’s persuasive intent” and tend to accept ads as “fair, accurate, balanced, and truthful.”  By giving marketers such direct access to kids, adults who are responsible for kids’ well being are shirking that responsibility.

In addition, fast-food advertising is allowed by every state that has approved bus ads.  With one in three kids in the U.S. deemed to be overweight or obese, is it a good idea for kids to go to school in buses promoting fast food?

I know that many states are in financial trouble, but before covering every scoreboard and chalkboard with ads, I’d like to have more confidence that all of the fat has been cut from state and local school budgets.

Take Action

If you live in a state that’s considering school bus advertising and would like to let your legislators know how you feel about the issue, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has the latest info on where the process stands in each state and how to contact legislators.

Making a call or sending a letter can make a difference.  In 2009, a grass roots effort succeeded in pulling the plug on BusRadio, an organization that once piped music programming – and four minutes of paid commercials – into 10,000 school buses in 24 states.

I say, let’s kick advertising off the bus.  Where do you stand on this issue?

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5 Responses to This Ride to School Brought To You By…

  1. Steve May 5, 2011 at 4:05 PM #

    Matt –

    If the average American is exposed to over 3000 advertisements a day, I have a hard time arguing that adding one ad a day to a kid’s life will be some type of “tipping point”.

    While my preference would be for schools to find this money by being more efficient with the dollars they have, it doesn’t look like that will happen any time soon.

    Thanks for the great blog. I appreciate your time and insights.

    Best wishes –


  2. Matt Bell May 4, 2011 at 5:10 PM #

    I may be a voice in the wilderness on this one, but it seems that marketers have more direct access to kids than ever. Especially with younger kids, I think they should be able to grow up without being exposed to so many marketing messages.

    lar, thanks for the link to I had never heard of it before. It looks good.

  3. lar May 4, 2011 at 12:42 PM #

    In regards to the reduced funding for our schools, I had an idea awhile back of having the neighborhoods helping out with their schools. Well someone took that same idea and brought it to fruition. Check out this website, it looks promising.

  4. Natasia May 4, 2011 at 12:08 PM #

    I dont have a problem with the ads on school buses i actually worked for a school transportation department that had ads on the buses none of which were for junk food or fast food. most were to preschools, learning centers, and some for transportation related companies. with more and more states making budget cuts to schools they have to find the money some where. Also Arizona(where I’m from) does not charge kids to ride the school bus(unlike California), it is a service they provide free of charge to ALL students eligible.

  5. Mary Henderson May 4, 2011 at 9:59 AM #

    My school district has bus ads. I think it’s great that they’re getting creative to make ends meet. The ads don’t target the students but rather folks like me outside of the bus. What’s the big deal?

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