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Schools no place for product placement


Advertising is part of many public and private venues, from smart phones to elevator cars. Trying to get your message out is what helps fuel business, and business fuels the economy.

But if there's one place where there should be more control of the message, it's in the school environment. There, it's the teacher's primary task to educate the students, and maintaining focus on the core message — the curriculum the schools want to cover — becomes harder in the face of distractions.

The state Board of Education is considering a plan to enable cash-hungry schools to raise money by accepting campus signs containing positive messages sponsored by companies, complete with the company logo. The Department of Education, painfully aware of all the cuts into school expenditures in recent years, supports the idea.

As much as out-of-the box thinking and private partnerships deserve support, there are better routes for companies to invest in public schools than this. The proposal, while well-intentioned by educators, would raise many problems while providing the needed money.

Here's one: Even if the posters' benign messages are chosen by school authorities, the logo at the bottom communicates its own meaning, one that may not align with school policies. If, say, a soft-drink company wants to sponsor an ad, how does that recognizable logo play with the schools' campaign to promote more healthful food on campus? And for the school or the BOE to accept only certain companies for the program while rejecting others might set up needless arguments.

Further, once the school comes to expect the advertising revenue, it will be tempting to expand the program too far, with too many posters or signs in less appropriate spots.

A better way for companies to support education may be underwriting school enrichment programs or sharing the costs of the educational materials. A company logo or other acknowledgement printed in them would put a feather in the sponsor's cap at the time without becoming too intrusive in the school-day environment. Some programs have issued small packets with coupons or discount offers for students to take home upon completion; their parents can decide whether to redeem them.

Hawaii is certainly not alone in considering this money-making plan of advertising in schools. In suburbs surrounding Minneapolis, for example, school districts are contemplating allowing advertising on 10-15 percent of available surfaces, including walls, floors and student lockers. And the revenue take goes up the higher the percentage of space the school will accept, so it's clear where temptation creeps into the decisions down the road.

One of the school officials there stressed that it's a one-year test program that could be canceled if problems arise, but he added that "if they become kind of a normal, everyday deal, it could just be part of the culture."

This state's school administrators should think long and hard about whether that's where they want Hawaii schools to go, whether advertising should become part of the campus culture. Once schools go there, it would be tough to come back.

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HonoluluHawaii wrote:
What about NEXT STOP ZIPPY'S on the way from The Parking Structure to The Stanley?
on November 8,2011 | 01:12AM
aunty wrote:
Absolutely no way should this be allowed. Public health messages, if any message on open space, but no commercial promotions/company logos no matter how "positive" a message they can manage. It will be like the t-shirt logos--start off innocent and then get carried away. Big argument on where the line is crossed.
on November 8,2011 | 03:26AM
aiea7 wrote:
This commentary assumes that the DOE will not have set up rules and procedures on what type of advertisement to accept and how much to accept and where to place them. Surgary drinks have been deemed bad for students, do you think that they will accept advertisements from them? There is nothing wrong with the DOE or schools being selective in accepting advertising and they will have rules on where and how much advertising will be allowed to be posted. So, your reasons for not adopting advertising are not really persuasive. You are assuming the DOE is money hungry and will accept any type of advertising - this is really a stupid assumption. This policy is similar to a public/private parnterhsip to help the schools; the other alternative is to raise taxes to meet the funding for the schools.
on November 8,2011 | 07:32AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Personally, Iʻd like to see businesses adopt schools and help them with teaching aids, grounds maintenance etc. Foodland does this indirectly. A small sign of the business wouldnʻt hurt if it is really helping!
on November 8,2011 | 08:08AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
A good example of product placement that is currently in place is Apple's place in the classroom. Many classrooms are provided with Apple computers which Apple has provided for free. The children get familiar with Apple computers and grow up to be Apple consumers. That is a give and take relationship that the schools have with Apple. I don't think that that is necessarily wrong in that without Apple's sponsorship many children would go without computers. My children are so used to Apple computers that I can foresee them purchasing that brand computer for many years to come. That is their right. My only problem is with companies like Coca-Cola advertising on school grounds given their reputation for being nothing but sugar and water and thus empty calories. But other companies should be able to advertise as long as their companies provide sufficient funding to the schools and that their message is positive and not involving undesirable things as soft drinks and junk food such as McDonald's. The problem would be in implementing such a rule as there are a lot of companies which would represent gray areas.
on November 8,2011 | 09:41AM
Heart wrote:
We live in a strange society in which much emphasis is placed on the investment in, and well-being of our children, yet we allow commercial preditors to target them with little parameters to encourage them to partake in products that over the long term could damage their health. Starting with children's television networks our keiki are bombarded with commercials selling sugar-sweetened beverages, fast foods, and products that they don't need, but will be led to badger their parents to purchase for them. Even tobacco companies, which were supposed to have curtailed advertising to children, continue to create loopholes in their agreements with states through product placements in stores and in films accessible to minors. With childhood obesity climbing in Hawaii at a rate much faster than the national average, we should be looking at ways to better protect our children from being misguided toward unhealthy choices rather than selling the opportunity to subliminally steer them to the products of companies that are interested only in profiting from them. Before considering allowing advertising in schools, classes should be required to teach students about subliminal messaging in advertising. Unfortunately, like much needed physical education classes, the time and resoures allocated for important life lessons like that have been eliminated from the Hawaii public school day.
on November 8,2011 | 10:10AM
yskeulb wrote:
If the State needs more money, then advertise in and on State buildings, but not the schools! Next thing, we are going to start having billboards all over the State.
on November 8,2011 | 04:21PM
gsr wrote:
Lunch costs up, no busses, classes and programs cut, 1/2 days, planning days and now advertising. Cost per student seems still the same, are we just enabling the DOE to continue in the same manner as before...
on November 9,2011 | 07:09AM
pizza wrote:
What a ridiculous idea from an even more ridiculous BOE. This is what comes from special interest appointments instead of elections.
on November 22,2011 | 08:03PM
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