By Brian Vaszily
June 16, 2006
Just when you thought it couldn't get any more despicable, along comes BusRadio.
Their business will be to pipe ads, corporate-sponsored contests and promotions for their commercial website -- along with music -- into school buses, and into our children's ears, on their way to and from school.
This "content" will be segmented by the students' age group, so the busloads of elementary school kids will get ads and other propaganda most alluring to them, while the middle-school and high school students will each get ads and other propaganda most alluring to them.
BusRadio will start with school buses serving over 100,000 students in Massachusetts this September, then roll out their business nationwide in 2007.
Now, the extremely subtle marketing tricks targeting adults that I am dedicated to exposing in my columns are sinister enough, but at least adults -- equipped with the type of insights I provide -- have a fighting chance.
Children and teens, meanwhile, don't typically comprehend the impact marketing has on them. Research has shown, in fact, that kids seven and younger cannot even distinguish between a fact and an advertisement … to their innocent minds, whatever an ad claims must actually be true (because why would anyone lie?)
BusRadio knows that full well, and they actually brag that they will "take targeted student marketing to the next level."
The targets are, of course, our children who are sitting there captive to the forced messaging on the buses.
Even worse, the school districts (the specialists in children's brains) also know full well that children and teens don't comprehend the full impact of marketing -- but those school districts embracing BusRadio are flat-out ignoring this fact because of the short-term financial gain …
Perhaps Cigarette Manufacturers Should
Donate 10% in Exchange for School Distribution!
Please note with awe and reverence that the oh-so-kind-hearted BusRadio has agreed to provide 5% of their revenue to participating school districts.
As if that end justifies the means.
So what's next, allowing junk food in the vending machines, fast-food in the cafeteria, and advertising in the classrooms just because the school districts get a cut of that revenue, too? Oh wait … many U.S school districts HAVE already stooped to those levels.
Okay, so then what's next, offering cigarettes and condoms in the vending machines if those companies pledge to contribute 10% to the schools? Allowing the school gymnasium's to become strip clubs in the off-hours if they agree to contribute 15% of their revenue to the schools?
I wish comparing cigarettes to advertising was an exaggeration, but -- as a marketer who once worked on that irresponsible side of marketing -- I have repeatedly demonstrated how today's rampant propaganda tricks adults into going into debt, ill health and depression.
Because they are even more impressionable, the situation is even worse for kids -- marketing gone wild is THE key cause behind many of the serious problems facing kids today including obesity, depression, violence and more.
So let me put this as kindly as possible -- BusRadio is a company based on a disgusting business model. The more successful they are at manipulating kids' minds, the more financially successful they will be as more companies will pay higher prices for advertising with them.
But the school districts that allow them to "target" our children with propaganda are truly the reprehensible ones, as their job -- the reason we trust our kids to them and pay tax dollars -- is to protect and expand children's minds. NOT allow them to be "targeted."
What Makes a School Bus? 2006-2007 Version
What You Should Know About the Founders of BusRadio
There's something you should know about the two founders of BusRadio, Michael Yanoff and Steven Shulman: they are the same executives who founded Cover Concepts, a business that provides schools with millions of free book covers decked out in ads promoting McDonald's, Nike, Calvin Klein and other major national brands.
So they know a thing or two about targeting your children for subtle mind-manipulation.
They also know a thing or two about defending themselves from public criticism.
There has already been some outcry against BusRadio in Massachussetts, where their pilot program is slated to begin this autumn. If the outcry isn't loud enough to stop them, that simply means they are getting some practice for their national rollout in 2007. And predictably their main rebuttals to the criticism have been:
• Hey, they're contributing 5% of their revenues for BusRadio to the school districts that will allow them! (See my comments on this dangerous line of reasoning above)
• Well, in a typical hour it will only be eight minutes of advertising and two minutes devoted to contests. (And? The point is that advertising is already way too rampant and destructive, especially to children. So MORE on their way to and from SCHOOL? But in case that sounds "okay" to some, note this: BusRadio's programs are digital and so are NOT monitored at all by the Federal Communications Commission. So in those other 44 minutes per hour, BusRadio will be able to pay whatever music they are paid to play, and to announce whatever news they choose to announce to your kids. Propaganda comes in many pretty packages. Furthermore, the contests they are announcing will direct children to their website -- where there will be plenty more marketing for them to consume!)
• Um … At least it's better content than what your kids are listening to on their own! (Really? Ads? Subtle propaganda? Run by two executives and other corporate strangers I don't know, but whose backgrounds indicate they DON'T have my two children's best interests in mind as their #1 goal? I think I'd rather trust my children's choices over that option, and take responsibility for the values I instilled in them, thanks.)
The ultimate point here -- and the source of my ultimate disgust - is that our children won't even have a choice to shut off BusRadio when they're on the bus. Unlike even television which CAN be shut off, it will be FORCED into their bus, much the same way radio propaganda has been forced upon citizens in totalitarian countries in the past.
If it were all Mozart and Beethoven music being piped into the background, so be it.
But this is advertising. This is contests that lead to a website providing more advertising. This is corporate-sponsored music and news. All served by complete strangers whose motivation and key goal is selling more and more and more, NOT the betterment of our children. And unless the kids are instructed to plug their ears with their fingers or an I-Pod for every school bus ride, they will be forced to hear the propaganda.
If that is not an alarm I don't know what is.
Time to Ride the School Bus, Kids!
So what can YOU do about it?
One, contact your local school board and tell them NOT to let BusRadio into your school district. If they don't know what BusRadio is, they soon will -- so send them a copy of this column so they won't hear from BusRadio first.
Two, if you don't have children of your own, please pass this column on to every parent with kids in or going into grades k-12 so they are aware of -- and can oppose -- BusRadio.
Meanwhile, for those who support the idea of totalitarianism in general and this business that forces kids to listen to propaganda while they are captive on their school buses in particular, some additional ways to make it even more profitable include binding the children's hands to they can't plug their ears, and gagging their mouths so they can't talk over BusRadio.