Should Marketing Be Allowed in Schools?

June 2003

Schools everywhere are short of money. Schools take around 20% of kids' time. Kids are a major focus of attention for many marketers. These facts, taken together, make it hardly surprising that marketers have done deals with schools enabling them to market to kids on school premises.

It's not a new idea, but it is increasingly controversial, as the scope and scale of in-school marketing has increased, and the range of available activities and formats has expanded.

The Controversy

It's controversial for a number of reasons:

  • Education is seen by both parents and teachers as a commerce-free area.
  • Where commerce does intrude, it is suspected of being less than honest (and, especially in the US, of often being aggressive and anti-educational).
  • It is, therefore, criticised as a way by which commercial and consumerist values and practices are being insidiously fed to vulnerable children through the schools' back doors.
  • Within the broader spectrum of concerns about the appropriateness of advertising to children per se, especially younger children, in-school advertising is seen as being peculiarly outside parents' control (an argument that that gives the teachers little credit).
  • And, as a sub-set of the last point, in-school marketing is seen as promoting foods and drinks that are increasingly regarded as nutritionally damaging (for more on this issue, see the WARC Hot Topic on Obesity).

The Benefits