Commercials in the Classroom: The Impact of Channel One Advertising

Jeffrey E Brand and Bradley S Greenberg

Television advertising targeted to young people receives considerable negative criticism from parents, educators, and policy-makers (Ward, 1984; Young, 1990). The persuasive intent of a sales pitch targeted to teens, let alone preteens, makes all parties in that communication transaction uncomfortable (Pollay, 1986). Some ask, doesn't advertising produce excessive desire for products, regardless of need or usefulness? Given the relative suspicion toward TV advertising aimed at youth, it seems improbable that one could televise commercials in American public school rooms on a daily basis. Yet, Whittle Communications - a Tennessee based marketing and communications firm - introduced this practice in 1990 with a show called Channel One. The program is a 10-minute newscast with 2 minutes of advertising aimed at middle- and high-school adolescents. In exchange for delivering the program to their students on at least 90% of school days, schools receive telecommunications equipment including a satellite dish, two VCRs, and television sets in each classroom. (All hardware and software remain the property of Whittle Communications.)