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.
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?
To subscribe to this blog, just click here. Two or three times a week, you’ll receive ideas and encouragement for using money well.