A few weeks ago I blogged about the NUS’s call to arms as it looks to recruit UK Universities into backing its new campaign to ban advertising from payday loan companies on campuses across the UK.
A ongoing wider debate on the amount of advertising our children are exposed to has hotted up after one lobby group – leave our kids alone – recently launched with a letter to the Telegraph, stating their main aim of introducing a blanket ban on advertising to under 11’s.
Impossible you might think, but Sweden, Norway, Greece and a province of Quebec have all already introduced legislation on those lines.
Now, it appears secondary school students aren’t immune from the long reach of the corporate arm as advertising campaigns and sponsorship deals wind their way surreptitiously behind school gates.
In a recent interview on Radio 4, the Oasis Academy in Salford described how they are willing and open to advertising so long as it fits with the ‘ethos’ of the school. Examples given where Sodexo sponsoring student awards, Kia getting involved with facilities management and, more worryingly, Starbucks providing funding as part of the Suspended Coffee Movement.
The Academy has also struck up a strong partnership with the local rugby team (Salford Reds) with whom they work with on a variety of projects and activities. I have no problem with that, linking with local organisations that are part of the history, heritage and culture of the area seems genuinely beneficial on a mutual level.
Maybe I’m being over suspicious, there are businesses who work with schools to bring in ad campaigns and they say 95% of campaigns are from charitable or governmental organisations. While on the face of it most advertising in schools is seemingly fairly innocent and educational, it may not always be the case. Some campaigns are from large corporations like PWC and Tesco, often in the form of recruitment or through sponsoring events and activities.
The fact is that advertising works. It does. It doesn’t matter how subliminal or subtle the campaign is – it could be Starbucks’ involvement with the Oasis Academy where every pound that is spent on suspended coffees in Salford will be pledged to the academy to facilitate the work they do. On the face of it a fine moral project, but should we be letting a company with as blotted acopybook as Starbucks have access to our children in such a way that they’re portrayed as a cuddly, caring company?
The truth is that such corporations are ultimately working at the behest of their shareholders, they have one motivation: profit.
I believe parents should feel a little uneasy that children are being targeted in a morally questionable way – young impressionable minds are sales propositions for multi national corporations. It’s not just through the media they consume, the ads they see in town; it’s creeping into the classroom and as our schools move ever further towards becoming individual beings the access companies have to students is becoming less regulated.
We should be wary that schools don’t become wombs where embryonic consumers are nurtured by corporate interests.