YOUTH MEDIA: CLASS ADVERTISING - Advertising to kids at school usually provokes outrage, but one publisher is being lauded for it

Here are a couple of teasers for you, both of which have the same solution. What has delivered six million free exercise books to schools, but is not an Education Authority? And which top magazine in the Audit Bureau of Circulations figures is not really a magazine at all?

Here are a couple of teasers for you, both of which have the same

solution. What has delivered six million free exercise books to schools,

but is not an Education Authority? And which top magazine in the Audit

Bureau of Circulations figures is not really a magazine at all?

The answer is JazzyBooks. More than 4.5 million students, ranging from

six to 18 years old, have so far used the books, which are an

alternative to the traditional exercise books issued by schools. These

are normally ordered and paid for by head teachers for children to use

for homework, rough work and a hundred other things. Now, however, a

small independent company in Kingston upon Thames has started sending

them out to schools free-of-charge. How? Or, more to the point, why? The

answer would once have struck terror in the hearts of protective parents

everywhere - JazzyBooks carry advertising.

JazzyBooks, or more accurately its publisher, Lasting Impressions, has

leapfrogged the sensitivities surrounding advertising to children and

penetrated right to the heart of the schoolroom. And this in the face of

a European Union initiative to try to stop all advertising to


Of course, schools save money by signing up to the programme, and the

initiative has been helped by a new atmosphere of co-operation between

schools and businesses over the past few years, but it is still a coup

for Lasting Impressions’ managing director, Winton Rossiter.

Rossiter first came across a similar idea in the US a few years ago.

The American equivalent was a tough but attractive covering for

textbooks, which would extend their life free of charge, in return for a

few discreet branding messages. It proved to be a big winner in the US,

but unfortunately Rossiter could not replicate the idea exactly over

here. Our books tend to come in a larger variety of sizes, making the

covers far more expensive to produce, and British textbooks are in such

short supply in schools that they often go back into the school cupboard

at the end of the lesson, thereby giving their covers less exposure.

After some thought, though, Rossiter hit upon a slightly different


He would supply exercise books with bright covers instead. In 1996, he

began with a test which put JazzyBooks in 26 primary schools. Now,

according to the client services director, Chris Coleman, they reach 55

per cent of all secondary schools and 30 per cent of primary schools in

Britain, and Lasting Impressions has such blue-chip names as Procter &

Gamble, Heinz, BT, Kodak, and Walkers Snack Foods on its books.

The road to advertising in the classroom is littered with corpses of

good ideas which have been badly handled. So Rossiter, determined to

avoid the torpedoes which have sunk other initiatives, has been very

careful in his approach. JazzyBooks has kept teachers and parents on its

side, for example by making sure that all books carry as many social

messages as they do advertising ones. Thus, a branded front cover from

Pepsi might tell kids to ’get smart, get educated’; or a book might

contain ads from charities such as the Samaritans as well as branding

from Sainsbury’s or road safety information from the Department of the

Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Another tenet of JazzyBooks is to always be bright and entertaining.

Lasting Impressions offers help in making sure the designs are

appropriate in both style and content for each age group. This has stood

the company in good stead, with teachers actually claiming that kids use

the books more because of their interesting covers. The publisher also

uses only non-contentious sponsors for its books and has drawn up a

detailed list of dos and don’ts for their art work. Covers cannot show

pack shots, for example, and must be free of racial, religious and

sexual stereotypes.

This stringent quality control has paid off. JazzyBooks now has the

support of both the National Federation of Parent Teacher Associations

and the National Association of Head Teachers. There is no formal

consultative procedure about content of the books, but Coleman will take

back or change any that do not suit at the company’s expense.

Sponsoring a cover costs roughly twice the price of a DPS in a teen


The inside covers and centre spread are also available. After initial

trials involving one issue of JazzyBook per term for secondary schools

and one for primary schools, business has begun to escalate. So much so

that JazzyBooks now tops the teen section of ABC figures, and ranks 15

among all ’magazines’, with circulation now more than a million per


It is all a far cry from when the Essex-based Imagination for School

Media Marketing company provoked outrage by offering to pay schools to

accept poster advertising. Time and attitudes have moved on from


Resource-starved schools are no longer seeing industry as the enemy, and

last year the Department for Education and Employment set up a working

party to promote more links between education and business. Tesco’s

initiative to help schools with computers has been running for seven

years now, while Walkers crisps have become synonymous with new books

after its campaign.

Few companies other than Lasting Impressions have ventured into the

playground to offer advertising to third parties, although one -

Boomerang - offers postcards. But JazzyBooks has shown what the right

idea at the right time can do. Others can not be far behind.