Pepsi and Coke pay schools $20 a head to get exclusive rights to sell their products to kids and plaster advertising around the campus. Chips Ahoy gives schools a counting game for little kids where they have to determine the number of chocolate chips in their cookies. "Your kids are being sold every time they walk in the door of their school, or soon will be," wrote critic Allan Casey in Adbusters, which "is concerned about the erosion of our physical and cultural environments by commercial forces."
I am as shocked and appalled by this as Casey is. After all, why are just the schools cashing in? I would be more than happy to sell my children and any other young relatives for the right price. Plenty of companies pay for ad space in schools to reach kids with the same demographics as my children (that demographic officially classified as "sullen know-it-alls").
A company called YouthStream, for instance, has message boards in 7,200 high school locker rooms. I'll make the same deal with them. My daughter has covered every square inch of her room with posters of young men, presumably TV and rock stars, who look like they could use a TB shot. I'll make this space available to any legitimate buyer. My daughter won't like it, of course. But if she whines, I'll just send her to her room - which gives your message guaranteed exposure. Your price: $15 for a three-by-three foot space.
Like any good parent, I take pride in putting food on the table for my children. And like most teenagers, my children take relish in refusing to eat it. Mealtime with my daughter consists of her moving food from one part of her plate to the other, until I become so disgusted with the mess I excuse her. Kellogg's, I just found out, is already paying kids to play with their food. Kellogg's sponsors an art project where children make sculptures out of Rice Krispies. I'd be happy to feed my daughter Rice Krispies every day. Your price: $10 a meal. The price is lower because I plan to eat the sculptures.
Numerous companies pay for the right to give children clothing with their logos. I'll be delighted to sell you ad space on my daughter's clothing. All you have to do is drop off the apparel at my house in the morning. When my daughter appears for school, I will furiously compliment anything she is wearing. This guarantees she will go up to her room to change. Finally, she will pick up the clothing with your logo and I will deride it. Which ensures she will wear it and influence other teenagers. Your price: $20 per article of clothing.
I know some people will be critical of my proposal. After all, critics like Casey rail against marketing to kids. Campbell's Soup created (and then in the words of Casey "shamefully recalled") a science lesson where students compared the viscosity of Prego sauce to rival Ragu. "The Consumers Union has stated that 80 percent of these 'lessons' contain wrong or misleading information," Casey wrote. The counter-argument is, this is a better percentage of correct information than I provide when helping my children with their homework. Or so they tell me.
So please consider my offer. And remember, some states are already proposing bills to prohibit product placements in textbooks and limit electronic advertising in schools. The way things are going, my kids' wall space is going to be one of the last ways you can reach the sullen-know-it-all demographic. And if you move fast, you can lock them down until they move away to college.
Joe Mullich is proud to have written for every magazine on the face of the planet, including Reader's Digest, Cosmo, Dog Fancy, and Inside Kung Fu (don't scoff or he'll kick your ass). His e-mail address is [email protected]