At Sea in a Marketing-Saturated World:The Eleventh Annual Report on SchoolhouseCommercialism Trends: 2007-2008
Alex Molnar, Faith Boninger, Gary Wilkinson, and Joseph Fogarty
Three trends identified in the 2007 Report on SchoolhouseCommercialism continued to develop in 2008. Advertising is becomingever more pervasive; the boundary between advertising and editorialcontent is becoming less distinct; and the relationship between marketersand consumers is becoming more interactive. Advertisers and marketersare pursuing divergent strategies, both hiding advertising inside ostensiblyneutral editorial matter and directly enlisting consumers as agents andcollaborators in the ongoing advertising process.These practices reach into the lives of children and follow them to school.Today’s children live, breathe, and play with brands, and they findadvertising integrated into the products they buy or that are bought forthem: games, books, movies, the Internet and television. In addition topassively experiencing the advertising saturating their socialenvironments, children actively engage with it by playing brandedvideogames and passing viral marketing videos among their friends.Advertising’s very pervasiveness in the world outside of school helpslegitimize and normalize it in school as well. School thus remains adesirable marketing environment because children spend so many of theirwaking hours there as a captive audience. School-based marketing in thenear future is likely to share the dominant characteristics of othermarketing efforts directed at children: entwined with content anddemanding engagement, winning children over by involving thembehaviorally with the brand.While resistance is growing to advertising that targets children in school,opposition to school commercialism is overshadowed by the highlyamplified messaging of businesses that advertise to children in school.Although some of the more egregious examples of commercialism inschools may fade in the coming years, we are likely to see more of theunderstated variants of school-based commercialism. As schools struggleto make ends meet, we are also likely to see businesses continue to expandthe popular approach of “working in partnership” with schools to helpwith fundraising — building public goodwill and a positive brand imagethrough marketing dressed as “corporate responsibility.” In 2008 as wellas for the foreseeable future, schools remain a valued marketing venue.