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
> 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.