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Is that an ad for my church on the side of that school bus?

Is that an ad for my church on the side of that school bus?

It’s not within our usual ambit for the Café, but consider the following.


The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare of Rhode Island’s General Assembly is currently considering HB 7079, legislation that would enable school buses to be adorned with advertising space, the content of which would be determined by the local school committee or regional district, who would also be responsible for “the sharing of revenues derived therefrom.”

First, let’s go ahead and get that great big yawn out of the way. Great. Since that’s done, we may want to also skip the advertising math, as anyone who has ever tried to calculate cost-per-thousand-impressions well knows.

Instead, consider: What sorts of advertisers do you think might be interested in setting out their wares on the side of a bus?

McDonald’s? Sure. Pepsi? Yes, probably. (Anyone remember “Pepsi Presents Arithmetic” from The Simpsons?) How about the makers of PSP gaming units, or Pokémon cards? Sure.

In other words, chances are that given the opportunity to reach into a captive and proven audience (kids and their parents), companies will bring their marketing dollars. And you can bet that other states will be interested in closely studying the impact of freeing local schools to autonomously generate alternative revenue streams.

Now, I’ll bet you thought I was going to say children should have commercial-free lives to the extent possible, and on a clear day I probably would. Or, I’ll bet you thought that strictly as a joke I was going to say Episcopal congregations should start having corporate sponsors. But no … in fact, maybe we’ll save that second point for April 1st.

In thinking about the kinds of advertising that have the potential to actually work for churches, you might consider school buses should the option open up in Rhode Island or wherever:

  1. Buses (both those who ride on them and those who watch out the window for them) help to account for the much-coveted “young family” demographic
  2. Advertising with school districts financially benefits school districts
  3. Church advertising could potentially supplant ads for products of questionable intent (Beef Jerky Chew or Big League Chew, anyone?)
  4. You might even be able to negotiate for a nonprofit advertiser rate upon supplying proof of your 501(c)(3)

The only downside I can see is that you’d have yet another round of rehashing church-and-state. But I don’t think the case is there. Plenty of churches have advertised for years in things like team posters, event bulletins, and yearbooks, and I defy you to explain how this is any different.

For the record, my tongue is only halfway in my cheek (because of all the Big League Chew) as I write.

The real question is, If you could advertise your church on the side of a school bus, what would you say?

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IT

Oh, I love these games!

1) Ride with us: Open Hearts, Open Minds

2) Let’s travel together. Everybody welcome.

Matthew Buterbaugh+

This bus can only take you on a journey for a day. You need to take a journey for life.

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