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
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.