Next to the issue of tobacco promotion, nothing polarises ad
industry opinion as much as the question of whether advertisers should
be allowed into Britain’s schools. Must classrooms be havens of learning
or should schools permit children to be exposed to advertising messages
which are appropriate and controlled in a way that doesn’t necessarily
happen outside the playground gates?
The debate is back on the agenda with the news last week that Boomerang
Media plans to distribute ad-funded postcards to secondary schools.
Even though Boomerang has built a series of checks and balances into the
system - including the appointment of an independent advisory committee
comprising representatives from schools, industry and the arts to review
the cards’ content - the fact remains that advertisers are nervous about
being too overt where schools are concerned.
The underwhelming interest of companies in the ill-starred scheme to put
poster sites in schools is evidence of their fear of overstepping the
But although the National Union of Teachers calls for schools to remain
’ad free zones’, the truth is that advertisers are already inside via a
range of promotional tools from branded activity sheets to voucher
The task now is to ensure that the relationship between business and
education is sensibly managed.
For that to happen, there are two essential pre-requisites. The first is
that decisions about advertising must rest exclusively at local level
with teachers, governors and parents.
The second is that advertising should not be ’bolted on’ but evolve out
of a long-term relationship with an advertiser in which a school has
been shown to gain tangible benefits.