Province considers classroom advertising to boost revenue

Emboldened by the success of so-called “captive advertising,” New Brunswick’s education officials are considering a plan to increase education funding by allowing advertisers into the province’s schools.

Greg Boyd, an official with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, had this to say: “You know when you’re watching a video on YouTube, and before the video a little ad pops up, runs for like 30 seconds, and if you want to keep watching the video you have to watch the whole ad? It’s a little like that.”

The concept would have teachers interrupt lessons at intervals of 30 minutes to deliver scripted material or video, depending on the technological amenities of their classrooms. Students would be required to remain seated for these one- to two-minute advertisements. Any interruption would require the teacher to begin the advertisement again from the starting point.

“It’s really an opportunity to teach kids about marketing strategy while helping to cover budget shortfalls,” said Boyd. “The classroom is about preparing New Brunswick’s children for the real world, and more and more, that world is about maximizing ad revenues … Sorry, I meant learning to live with ads. You won’t print that, right?”

It is unclear whether union rules would permit the province to force teachers to comply with the new initiative. While most of the province’s teachers have expressed skepticism and even outright disgust over the proposal, a surprising number are backing the move.

“Look, half the kids are on their phones during class anyway,” said Anne-Marie Johansen, a kindergarten teacher from Island View Elementary School in Saint John. “The way I see it, between that and the brands on their clothing and food and stuff, ads are already in our schools.”

The province assures The Manatee that potential advertisers will be heavily vetted. The Harper government has reportedly expressed interest in running advertisements for Canada’s Economic Action Plan as part of this program, in order to prepare students for the future. Our request to the prime minister’s office for comment went unanswered.

As the New Brunswick government looks further outside the box to solve its financial woes, Boyd believes other departments will begin developing similar ways to bring in more revenue.

“New Brunswickers have always opposed the idea of tolls on our highways, for example,” said Boyd. “But imagine instead of a toll, you just have a stop somewhere on the road where an ad plays over the radio or even on your smartphone while you sit and wait. The revenue potential there is huge. Plus, all that extra gas being burned while cars idle will mean increased revenues for our province’s beleaguered oil and gas industry.”