Schools Sell Screensaver Ad Space to Pepsi

Another pitfall in the pursuit of wired classrooms and access for kids. 

Just plain insidious. 

>           Schools Sell Screensaver Ad Space to Pepsi
>           by John Alderman
>           8:44am  2.Apr.97.PST A Canadian school board, trying to
>           deal with a string of large-scale funding cutbacks has
>           started testing a new funding model: selling ad space on
>           classroom computers. Companies like McDonalds, Pepsi, and
>           Trident have signed on to a screensaver advertising program
>           that mixes educational messages, motivational words, and
>           slick corporate advertising.
>           The Peel Region Board of Education, in Ontario, is set to
>           vote Monday on whether to continue this program, which has
>           been in trial phase since 1 February. If approved the
>           programming will be sent to 200 schools with a total of
>           10,000 computers.
>           While Ontario is the first district to use screensavers,
>           advertising in public schools is a growing, if
>           controversial, phenomenon. In the United States, efforts
>           such as Channel One, an adverting-sponsored educational
>           television program aired in schools, have gathered a rising
>           tide of supporters and detractors.
>           "This typifies a trend of corporate involvement in the
>           classroom," says Jo Hirschmann, program director of the
>           California-based Center for Commercial-Free Public
>           Education, which is wary of this from of commercialism.
>           "Corporations are coming into the classroom under the guise
>           of addressing school fiscal problems. The reality is that
>           the money that schools raise from this type of
>           advertisement is minimal." Hirschmann feels that this type
>           of program encourages the government to abdicate its
>           responsibility for funding public education.
>           But advertisers want the exposure. "It's not like we're
>           rewriting history to include Pepsi," says Daryl Nicholson
>           of Pepsi, who points out that all along the way to school,
>           as well as in their free time, students inhabit a
>           densely-saturated media landscape. Nicholson adds that, as
>           a taxpayer with no children, he'd rather see the school
>           board raise money through corporate sponsorship than his
>           pocketbook.
>           The cost to advertisers will be 20 Canadian cents per
>           screen per week, which George Ching, a teacher at one of
>           the trial schools, says would yield schools C$400 a month.
>           The trial was free to advertisers.
>           The screensaver program was developed by John Robinson, now
>           president of ScreenAd Digital Billboards, who had an
>           inspiration when getting billboard advertisements ready for
>           production. Noticing how nice the ads looked on computer
>           screens, Robinson decided he could help solve the funding
>           crisis at the local Ontario schools. The trial he developed
>           includes classes that his two children attend.
>           "The government is not there anymore to help schools out,"
>           Robinson says. "People are realizing that the corporate
>           world has to come to the rescue, and they're not going to
>           do it for nothing."
>           All advertisements must agree to include an educationally
>           motivating message. The Pepsi ad, for instance, encouraged
>           children to "develop a thirst for knowledge." Robinson
>           argues that the screensaver is a palatable, appealing
>           alternative to other forms of advertisement. Unlike a
>           poster, he points out, it can be turned off.
>           Jack Slater, who teaches Robinson's kids and also helped
>           develop implementation of the ScreenAd program, is
>           interested in working with kids to design slides for the
>           screensaver themselves. He and the students would like to
>           make a tribute to one of their classmates who was recently
>           killed in an auto accident. All student-designed screens
>           would be approved by their administration as well as
>           ScreenAd, Robinson says.