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More Colorado districts on board with school-bus ads

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As Colorado school districts draft and finalize next year’s budgets, a handful are looking at school-bus advertising as a new income source.

Adams 12 Five Star Schools put its first ads on the outside of school buses last month. Greeley’s fleet has been carrying ads for a year.

Mapleton Public Schools mulled bus ads for more than four years and finally found help coordinating the operation.

“We already had a board policy in place that allowed it, but we kept getting stuck on how to get it going. There are so many issues to have to deal with,” Mapleton chief operations officer Don Herman said.

The district needed to ensure that ads met state regulations on size and placement, and needed designers to help create the ads and someone to find vendors.

“We just didn’t have the people to do that,” Herman said. “Maybe we could have overcome it eventually, but I doubt it.”

Mapleton signed a contract with Spot on Solutions this year and is expecting to have ads for its buses by fall.

Centennial-based Spot on Solutions was started two years ago by Dina Clifford and Michelle Kastner, who saw classroom budgets in their own children’s schools diminishing. The company shares about half of the per-ad revenue the district’s buses generate with the six Front Range districts it works with.

Though the trend is surging in popularity, it is not new to the state. A handful of other districts have been selling school-bus ads for years, as Colorado wrote regulations allowing the ads in 1993.

We were the first state in the country,” said Bruce Little, the state’s senior transportation consultant. “But still, really the only districts doing it are along the Front Range. The interest of advertisers out in smaller communities is just not the same, it’s not the same exposure.”

Concerns about the appropriateness of bus ads have subsided for most districts as they craft their process for approving the content of ads.

“Colorado does not allow advertising inside of the bus; this is just like any other transportation advertising,” said Clifford, Spot on Solutions’ chief marketing officer. “Though we still keep to family-friendly messages, it’s not geared toward the children — it’s the motorists that see the buses.”

Greeley School District 6 has earned $1,280 this school year advertising for four organizations, including the University of Northern Colorado. and Aims Community College.”I would say we would like to see more advertising to help our revenues, but we have been comfortable with the process spokesman Roger Fiedler said. Adams 12 estimates it could make $20,000 in the first year with ads on its 100-bus fleet.

The money would go into the general fund, but for comparison purposes, operations director Pat Hamilton estimated the sum could pay for 6,500 gallons of diesel, or about 52,000 miles of bus travel

“Any cost we can keep away from our families is a good thing, that’s ultimately our goal,” Hamilton said. “Our ads are starting to sell, the first round went pretty fast. It’s exceeded our expectations.”

If every bus in Mapleton carried an ad, the district could make as much as $60,000 in the first year. It will be earmarked for transportation. Herman said the district already has their sights set on purchasing digital cameras for each bus.

“We have identified it as one of our biggest needs right now for safety. On a good day, we have 10 buses running with an analog camera,” Herman said. “We just want people to see we really are trying to figure out other ways to make money. We’re not sitting around here being helpless.”

Yesenia Robles

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Comments
  • comment avatar Nunya April 19, 2012

    Wrong way to fund schools. They used the money excuse when they stuck soda machines in and crammed Channel One down our kid’s throats. How much longer before only sponsored clothing can be worn by students on school grounds? You are teaching our kids much, but it’s not the education they need. Buy junk until you’re broke then buy some more on credit. As we found out with the tin toilet on Mile Hi, these companies come and go and the next highest bidder might be Blackwater or, even worse, a bailed out bank.

  • comment avatar John April 19, 2012

    School buses should be covered in strident political demands that Colorado take responsibility for educating children.

  • comment avatar Mandy April 19, 2012

    I personally think this a great idea! These companies would be spending the advertising money either way, so why not have our schools benefit a little from it? Times are tough for everyone, but creativity can help take the edge off!

  • comment avatar Mandy April 19, 2012

    No one is “getting” ads–they’re paying to advertise on a school bus instead of an RTD bus or something. Read the article. Are you really trying to use an irrelevant-to-my-comment-and-this-story argument about who/what pay(s) taxes to say that having some companies’ advertising dollars go to our schools when they’re short on cash like a lot of us are (aka: “everyone” that I referenced in my first post) is a bad thing??

  • comment avatar J April 19, 2012

    I agree with you that’s it’s somewhat disconcerting to have private companies basically “paying” our schools for a service. Perhaps I’m foolishly hoping there won’t be strings attached to what should be a clear cut business deal.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson April 19, 2012

    So how does this work?

    There isn’t enough money to pay for schools but there is enough if we siphon a little off what we buy?

    This is the same logic as having bake-sales in which parents spend money to make cakes for the school sale, which their spouses promptly buy back, and a fraction of that transaction goes to the school.

    Companies spend marketing based on that being a tiny proportion of what they think people will buy, so if we are going increase our spending on the stuff they advertise on the buses, why not spend the money directly on the school instead of paying some advertiser a whole bunch for a product so they will give the school a little of the cost of advertising it?

    If we think the schools need more money then increasing spending on stuff so that a portion of the advertising can go to the school is a very weird alternative to simply funding the school directly.

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