The next time a school bus passes by, take a look because there may be a college ad plastered on its side. Yesterday, the Tri-Town News reported,“Starting in December, 41 school buses will carry an advertisement for Thomas Edison State College of Trenton.” Its article College will advertise on school buses states the Jackson School District Board of Education approved the college as its first advertising partner. However, New Jersey and a handful of states already permit school bus ads from businesses. New York is considering a similar proposal.
State of bus ads
Permitting school bus ads is a sign of the financially strapped school district times. It can raise revenue to replace state and federal budget cuts and/or take some financial burden off local taxpayers.
A handful of states permit school bus ads for the interior, exterior or both. They are, according to the July 2012 National Conference of State Legislatures Transportation Review:
- Exterior ads: Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, Utah
- Interior ads: Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
- Exterior and interior ads: Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee
The Review also noted that the trend started in 1997 when “Colorado became the first state to allow school districts to contract with advertisers for space on school buses.”
New York’s take on school bus ads
The New York State legislature is considering allowing school bus exterior ads so school districts in the state can raise and keep the revenue. The amended bill covers buses owned or leased by school districts. It also prohibits certain tobacco or alcohol products and political ads and “provides provisions do not apply to cities with a population of one million or more,” as described by Senate bill S1587A-2013 which is the same as Assembly bill A 5973-A.
On May 1, the action on the bill was to amend and recommit to Education.
College ads are are no longer limited to trade journals. They are on and in schools buses, shopping malls and streets. Higher education is big business and schools are looking for more ways to sell their brand and their product.
Also, schools vie for higher rankings. One way to generate higher selectivity ratings is to increase admission applications. That way more applications are rejected, changing the ratio between acceptance and rejection.
The marketplace knows the value of advertising and the value of a college diploma. Schools are ready to use billboards and posters to spur interest about their programs and encourage prospective students to apply.
Good, bad or ugly school bus ads
Ads in and on school buses target a captive audience of children. Whether they are riding inside or standing outside waiting to board, these young people are the most likely to read school bus advertisements daily. States and school districts should carefully review the effect of advertising before adding this revenue source.
College ads on a school bus would seem a natural fit for an advertising product since both are in the field of education. However, they may also give a wrong impression of education options, especially if only one school or type of school advertises during a child’s school bus use.
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