Your client riding on a big yellow school bus
Once a subject of controversy, ads on school buses are commonplace
September 6, 2016
There was a time when advertising on school buses was controversial. Just a few years ago, many parents weren’t comfortable exposing their kids to ads in an educational environment.
School bus ads are still allowed in only nine states, but the practice is becoming more common.
Blame the budget crunch at schools across the country. Though third-party vendors handle placement of most school bus ads, the districts claim most of the revenue generated, which can help make up for budget shortfalls.
To the parents who remain concerned about the ads, vendors note most school bus ads aren’t aimed at kids but rather pedestrians and motorists passing by the buses.
Still, groups such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood continue to oppose the ads because they commercialize the school environment, which may be why more states haven’t approved them.
This format can be attractive to advertisers looking for a wide reach at a low CPM. It can cost as little as 28 cents per 1,000 impressions to advertise on buses.
As students head back to school across the country this week, read on to find out how to get your client on school buses.
This is one in a Media Life series on buying out-of-home venues. They appear weekly.
Advertising on school buses.
Companies in markets where bus ads are available contract with school districts to sell ads on their buses. Some companies handle buses in multiple states and/or markets.
How it works
The size and location of the ads varies by state, based on local laws. Many are vinyl ads adhered to the sides of the bus behind the back wheels. The dimension of the ads also varies, but many are about 6 feet wide and between 18 inches and two feet tall.
As you’d expect, school districts must approve ads before they appear on buses. Ads related to alcohol, tobacco, religion, politics, sex or weapons are not accepted.
Schools get most of the dollars generated from the ads. For example, one company in Texas gives school districts 60 percent of the revenue it generates. If a district has more than 800 buses, it then receives 70 percent of the revenue.
While some groups continue to oppose advertising on school buses, vendors claim they’ve faced very little resistance.
“We have had no problems with ads being placed on buses and no problems with the communities of corresponding districts,” says Jack Calkin, director at SchoolBusAds.org.
“There will always be those who oppose anything that is different than the status quo, but just looking at our advertisers and the ads themselves, it’s obvious that most ads aren’t there to target the students,” adds Michael Beauchamp, chief executive officer at Alpha Media.
“Many problems plaguing our public schools today start with lack of funding, [so] it’s nice to see more creative school districts looking for additional revenue sources.”
School bus advertising is allowed in Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Tennessee, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico.
On average, a bus travels 12,000 miles per school year, transporting 26 million of the country’s estimated 50 million students.
How it is measured
Local transportation and census data is used to estimate impressions.
What product categories work well
Recent or current school bus advertisers include colleges, amusement parks, auto insurance, healthcare, credit unions and grocery stores.
Demographics vary by market. Since buses pass through many neighborhoods in each market, they’re viewed by a wide range of demographics.
Making the buy
Minimum lead time is typically four to six weeks. Some companies sell ads in four-week increments, similar to other OOH inventory. Others sell ads in 10-month flights that cover the entire school year, with the remaining two months free.
Pricing ranges from $100 to $600 per month, per bus, depending on the length of the campaign and the number of buses used. One company says CPMs average $0.28.
Who’s already used school buses
Current or recent brands that have advertised on school buses include Subway, Little Caesar’s, Goodson Honda, Lumber Liquidators, Party City, the Phoenix Zoo and the U.S. Marines.
What they’re saying
“These are ads that move constantly all around the town, the county and the state. This is a great way for schools to raise revenue, and the advertisers are seen as partners to that by parents and the general public.” — Cynthia Calvert, president at Steep Creek Media.
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