Onestop's high school DOOH proposal in front of school board tonight

March 9, 2011 by Dave Haynes

Onestop Media Group‘s pitch to the Toronto District School Board to expand the screen project it has tested in city high schools is up for discussion tonight, and as one might predict, local media have had no problem finding people to scream in horror about the threat to the impressionable minds of youngsters.

Reports the right-leaning Toronto Sun tabloid:

The commercials would give Onestop Media Group access to the most-sought-after demographic and would generate millions of dollars critics say.

For the past year, there has been a pilot program in four high schools, but on Wednesday night the school board could vote to expand the program into 70 schools.

“I do not think it is the school board’s place to leverage students minds to the highest bidder. School has to be a learning environment first and foremost and should not be doing things that do not have a direct educational benefit,” school trustee Zane Schwartz said.

Onestop would give the schools the equipment and pay each school $1,300 a year.

Students would have some access to post things on the monitors, which would also run commercials by the Milk Marketing Board to Much Music.

“Children and their parents need a commercial-free refuge in which to develop critical thinking skills required to participate fully within a democratic society,” said Dr. Trevor Norris, a professor with the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

The school board has allowed advertising in yearbooks for years.

“This is a whole different type of advertising. I am opposed to selling access to students to marketing firms,” said school Trustee Chris Glover.

“We don’t send our kids to school to see advertising. Putting TV commercial in school hallways where kids can’t avoid them denigrates education. What message are we giving our students about the value of education if we cheapen our schools with TV commercials in exchange for a few video screens.”

When the pilot project was first presented there was no mention of commercials, said school trustee Jenny Williams.

“I know marketers want access to kids in schools but if we start down that road it is a very slippery slope,” she said.

The Onestop guys are industry friends and they would have known, going in, this was the sort of fuss they would see. Working in their favour, of course, is restrictions already in place on types of advertising and a school board that has to make do with increasingly tight capital and operating budgets. Incremental money in the door helps.

However, if the Sun report is accurate and the return per school is just $1,300 a year, that’s not a particularly compelling argument to get past the whole slippery slope thing.

The actual proposal says a “Progressive revenue share of net sponsorship revenues to the Board (5-15%)” – so whatever that works out to.

“I think this is an excellent communication tool for schools,” said trustee Gerri Gershon in a Globe and Mail interview. Similar screens are already present in train stations, airports, cafés, “everywhere people gather. This is our life and I think that we should teach kids how to deal with it.”

From a CBC report:

The screens will only show “non-commercial” spots from places like universities, governments and the milk marketing board, said TDSB chair Chris Bolton, who is in favour of the proposal.

“Is ‘drink milk’ something we don’t want to tell our kids?” he said.

But Jenny Williams, a Grade 11 student representative on the school board, said many students are against advertising of any kind in schools.

“Students are feeling as though they are going to be bombarded with advertising from various companies and that school will no longer be a ‘safe zone’ for them,” she said.

Trustee Michael Coteau said the board is also against the proposal.

“Selling a [captive] audience — our students — in an attempt to generate revenue, and I think that’s a little bit worrisome,” he said.

Bolton said critics’ concerns are overblown.

“I’m not quite sure what [opponents] are thinking. It’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction as soon as one mentions advertising,” he said.

Me – I think this is a bit of a Trojan Horse play that, if the board accepts, will gradually enable the ad restrictions to be loosened. The telecom and entertainment companies would love to talk to this crowd in their native habitat.

I like the idea of this replacing/upgrading PA systems with digital announcements. I think the screen design and programming plan is, sorry Ian and Mike, awful. Way too much going on and there are probably three kids in all of high school Toronto that care about the Q4 financials of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The issue was deferred from a meeting earlier in the year, so let’s see first if it actually gets discussed.

Hat tip to Mike T at OLG for flagging this story on Twitter

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