lot is heard about the intrusion of advertising into the nations public schools. A few years ago the Seattle school system provoked a raging debate over it’s plans to allow advertisements on the uniforms, book covers, gym walls and sports fields. In Seattle’s case, and I suspect most, it was a question of money. Any ad revenue gained would be utilized to maintain programs that were threatened by failure to pass proposed tax hikes.
In recent years the debate has centered on soda vending machines and whether or not corporate logos should be openly displayed on them. The GAO even weighed in the controversy with a report titled, “Commercial Activities in Schools,” that warned “marketing professionals are increasingly targeting children in school, companies are becoming known for their success in negotiating contracts between school districts and beverage companies.”
All of this leads to a question. Is the worst yet to come? Our neighbors to the north, Canada, may have the answer. And it’s not encouraging.
For the past several months, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., one of the country’s largest publishers of university textbooks, has been quietly trying to coax companies into buying advertising space in their texts.
“Reach a hard to get target group where they spend all their parents’ money,” says a McGraw-Hill brochure touting its planned ads. “Do you really think 18-24 year olds see those on-campus magazine ads? Do you really think they could miss an ad that is placed in a very well-respected textbook?”
The Whitby-based publisher, which has made presentations about its prospective textbook ads to more than a dozen advertising agencies, says in its brochure that ads can be purchased nationally or regionally, and “can be so targeted, you can even buy a specific major.
“We’ve never offered this before and we’ll only offer it to the right organizations,” McGraw-Hill’s brochure says. The company plans initially to charge as much as $1.40 per book, and the ads would be inserts, instead of being placed permanently alongside text.
The plan is not without skeptics, Randy Stein, a partner at Grip Media Ltd said, “There are some things that should remain pure and sacred. What’s next, university professors with logos on their blazers like NASCAR?”
With McGraw-Hill having a large presence in the US you have to wonder if this Canadian scheme to advertise in textbooks will migrate southward. It should be noted McGraw-Hill is only looking out for the kids, really… honest!
In a subsequent statement to the Toronto Star, MacDonald wrote that the publisher’s textbook ads have two purposes: to bring “beneficial corporate and social awareness campaigns to the attention of students” and to “generate revenue to support programs which help professors and teachers cope with the rapid changes in their environment.”
What type of rapid changes in environment are they talking about? Class size? Global warming? Frosty Canadian winters? And why do professors and teachers need ads to “cope” when any advertising is aimed at the students?
Why do I smell a little social engineering coming down the pike? And any beneficial corporate campaigns are all nicely wrapped up in that $1.40 price tag. The publisher is pitching to advertisers at the same time as it is trying to survive a recent sales decline. The company has seen a 7 per cent slip from the $95 million the company generated in 2002.
So beware US, this travesty may be headed your way.
Cross posted On the Third Hand