Are Locker Advertisements a Blessing or a Curse for Public Schools?

How would you feel if your time as a high school student came complete with snazzy advertisements? Would you be okay with walking down the hallways (or knowing that your high school student was walking down the hallways) while being exposed to company advertising all over the lockers? This situation isn’t hypothetical: Locker advertisements are already a reality and their popularity is rumored to spread quickly!

I was shocked when I read a brandchannel article outlining this debate, not because I was offended but because I was taken off guard. But before you express your outrage at the idea of locker advertisements, take a look at the perks. Locker “billboards” could bring in a ton of much-needed funding for public schools because many advertisers are willing to pay good money for the exposure. According to the brandchannel article, the ads will generate up to $200,000 in revenue each year. Does this mean that participating public schools are selling out, or are they simply doing it for the greater good of student education?

I haven’t made up my mind about locker ad space yet. Even though my moral senses are tingling, I can see both sides. Advertisements seem out of place on school property, especially to the extent they’re featured in this case (click on the “brandchannel article” link in the paragraph above to view a picture of the ad-splashed lockers). However, they are bringing home the much-needed bacon for public schools. It’s hard to believe that locker ads would corrupt youth any more so than the commercials or advertisements they’re already exposed to on a daily basis, but does that make it okay? The problem lies with morality and whether or not public schools should accept money in exchange for ad space in the first place.

Academic Monthly Planner

Would company-donated school supplies like monthly planners be adequate substitutes for locker ads?

What’s the alternative to in-school advertising of this caliber? I’m no marketing god, but I can think of a technique or two that would benefit both advertisers and schools without causing this much controversy. First, interested advertisers could simply donate money or equipment to schools in exchange for a “donated by” mention like a plaque. Second, advertisers could purchase custom school supplies like pens, pencils, rulers, calculators, book covers, mini staplers, or spiral notebooks and put their logos on them. (Not in an overly-commercialized way that says “buy our stuff,” but in a “these were kindly donated by” kind of way). Third, advertisers could offer scholarships to students and attach their company names to them (for example: the “Smith Company Scholarship”); this would allow companies to advertise the scholarship, positively promote their brands, and actually BENEFIT students without resorting to locker ads. But I suppose those methods lack the flash and glitz that brightly-painted lockers offer!

Which brings me to my final question: Why can’t corporations donate money to schools out of the goodness of their hearts and skip the blatant locker billboards? I can’t help but gain respect for a company that donates money to good causes – isn’t that enough good exposure for the brand? The response would be enormous (and positive) and the press release alone could generate new business. Mark Zuckerberg did it and received recognition and praise, so other big names should have no problem following suit. But alas…what do I know?

It was only a matter of time before in-school advertising like this became a valid option for school systems! I can’t believe that I didn’t see it sooner. What are your thoughts?

Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. Jill writes for the QLP blog and assists with the company’s social media accounts. You can connect with Jill on Google+.


  1. Neptune Williams

    I would be pretty angry if they painted a big ugly advertisement across MY locker! I pay to go to that school, and I should have some say in my locker decor!! Besides, what happens when I tape up a paper banner of my own on the locker door and cover up a crucial part of their advertisement??? and what about homecoming flyers??? We can’t put those up anymore on locker doors? And other school spirit things. Bring in the advertisements and throw away school spirit??? This makes me SO ANGRY!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!

  2. Barbara Miller

    Wow. I taught school for 15 years and never imagined that something like this would come up! I, too, have mixed feelings about it, but I can only think of one caveat that I might tie on to the end of such a contract.

    The advertising should be carefully chosen. We know many schools are offering more healthy food choices, and the advertising should reflect that by NOT being about soda,(sorry, pop in Illinois!), candy and unhealthy foods.

    Secondly, What a boon for advertisers! They know that kids pester and pester until they wear their parents down. If a student sees an ad for Nike shoes, he may be influenced to buy them (or ask the parent to buy them.) As a parent, I may not think that is a good plan.

    I love all your other suggestions. There are many ways to advertise and cater to the greater good. But I can’t make my mind up, either!

  3. QLP Kid

    Props to anyone who can think of a way to make money regardless if their idea is original or not.

    “If something is worth doing, It is worth doing for money.”

    -QLP Kid

    “It’s How the Midwest was Won…”

  4. Scooby DOO!

    First eBay sells tattoo space on someone’s face and now we are inundating our children with ads… what’s next?

  5. QLP Jill

    @Neptune – I’m sure many other HS students out there share your point of view! I didn’t think about homecoming flyers or anything like that…but it is a concern. If you don’t agree with it, then I’d suggest telling the superintendent and see if something can possibly be done about it!

    @Barbara – Supposedly, participating schools have to approve the ads first and they can only be education, nutrition, or health/wellness related. But then I read about a locker ad that promoted the Mall of America…so I’m not sure. How could a mall be any of those things? I’m concerned that the restrictions will eventually drop and schools will be riddled with over-the-top advertisements that have little value… I have to wonder, too: How long do you think it’ll take students to deface these locker ads? My guess is within the first week. Then what are they going to do…repaint them?

  6. D-Rok

    Nice article. If I were a parent who’s child was in school somewhere that this was happening, I’d be pretty upset. School is the one place where developing children should not have to worry about capitalist corruption of the mind.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about capitalism… it’s motivational. Capitalism = natural selection/survival of the fittest so-to-speak. Without it, we wouldn’t have Starbucks everywhere, we’d have some crappy local cafe featuring a half-teaspoon of coffee grounds in each cup. Capitalism means you have to try harder and do better to succeed.

    Nonetheless, by putting advertising in the schools, you’re subjecting young naive people to the capitalist battlefield before they’ve been properly trained to survive it. They need to be taught the fundamentals before they’re thrown into the beautiful dog-eat-dog world of Corporate America.

  7. Theo Huxtable

    I guess it’s cool if it lowers taxes or admission fees. Maybe don’t charge for books or something? As long as the students and parents see a benefit from it, then it’s okay. If it all goes right into state officials’ pockets, then I’d strongly disagree. Maybe use the extra money to get healthier food in the cafeterias. No more chicken rings, chicken nuggets, chicken sticks, chicken stars, chicken patties, etc… they’re all the same stupid crap. get some chicken BREASTS in there or some good tasty salads with crasins and chopped up bell peppers and stuff… yay health

  8. Duff Beer

    Great post Jill!

    I actually think this is a GREAT idea…

    I mean, think about it… how many little league teams are SPONOSORED by someone or some company; that of which have their company name plastered all over the jerseys or uniforms of the teams that they sponsor? I’ve even seen “team photos” hung in establishments where the sponsors name is larger than the name of the actual team itself.

    How is selling advertising space on lockers any different?

    If it means selling advertising space on lockers vs. higher property taxes for local residents or firing teachers I’d pick the banner space on lockers any day.

    My ONLY caveat with this form of marketing would be that I’d want a CLEAR and TRANSPAPRENT report as to where or how these newly added funds were being used by the receiving school, other than that, you have my permission to plaster my locker door with advertisements filled with 1/2 naked ladies selling Axe body spray any time – JK! 🙂

  9. QLP Kid

    @D-Rok – I see your point of not wanting to “Expose” kids to the Capitalism battlefield but that is not how I look at it. If we are going to think of it like a battlefield than think of Sparta. While other cultures were “Protecting” their kids until they were “Mature” enough Sparta was exposing their kids to the Battlefield letting humans do what they do best. Adapt. Rest assured kids WILL adapt and the result will be similar to that of the Spartan’s. Excellence. while that is an extreme analogy it can still be applied. Humans can adapt to anything and everything. It is what makes us humans. By exposing Kids earlier and earlier will in time produce and even more educated people =)

    -QLP Kid

    “It’s How the Midwest was Won…”

  10. Bumcivilian

    I thought schools were a place for our children to academically grow, not become distracted consumers. I think this is wrong, it is bad enough children have millions of ads pounded into their heads everywhere they go; now they have to deal with it at school!? If I were a parent in the district that accepted I would be raising the question, why million dollar companies would fund schools to have ads place literally EVERYWHERE for their own benefit yet no other way, and this country being NOTORIOUS for over budgeted schools that need help, and that is the only way they are going to get it!? This really is the LAND OF CORPORATE GIANTS; they really have us all under their thumbs.

    To me it just seems a little too “1984”, or “The Giver.” Have we not learned anything from the extreme unimaginable direction we are headed as seen in literature? Even if you haven’t read them, I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s NOT a good outcome!

  11. Bumcivilian

    Although, I have a great idea for them that I am gonna patent: “IN UTERO ADVERTISEMENTS!” It’ll be a hologram projection inside the womb so we are all born predisposed to be amazing consumers!

  12. Max Powers

    To me, those locker advertisements just seem distracting. Personally, when I was going to school I would not have wanted ads on the lockers. I guess raising money for school is a good cause but in the example given (painting ads on lockers) it seems the schools are only getting a one time payment for a basically permanent ad. Are they going to charge a yearly rate to keep the ad there? Are they paid once for the ad and have to keep it there forever? Do they repaint the locker if the company refuses to pay a yearly fee? Seems kind of counterproductive and wasteful to continuously be painting lockers. What if the company goes under? Does the school just keep advertisements for old, defunct products on their locker? I know that the schools I went to didn’t have enough time to everything they needed to so painting over old advertisements would have been on the bottom of their “to do” list. Personall, I think this is just capitalism taken too far. It’s another example of effectively selling imaginary goods for real money.

  13. QLP Jill

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! I’m thrilled that we got a good discussion going!

    @D-Rok – Thanks! I tend to agree with you. The more I think about locker ads, the more I think it’s not such a great idea. (I’m gradually moving off the fence!) Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that it’s giving schools money they need, but I really think there’s a better way corporations could be helping!

    @QLP Kid – I don’t know that “exposing kids earlier and earlier” will produce any sort of educated person…I’ve noticed a decline in the behavior of many kids these days (I realize that makes me sound 90 years old, but whatever) and I think that more commercials is the last thing they need. Have you seen the kids that writhe around in toy aisles and screech when their mothers won’t buy them what they want? That’s what I picture when I think about exposing young kids to ads! It’s almost as if some of the commercials are yelling: “HEY KIDS! YOU NEED TO TELL YOUR MOMMY AND DADDY TO BUY THIS FOR YOU RIGHT NOW!” But that’s just my opinion.

    @Bumcivilian – Kudos on the literary references! 😉 You’re absolutely right – those books’ outcomes weren’t positive by a long shot and sometimes I think that’s where we’ll all end up someday. Oh, and I guarantee someone has already thought about in utero advertisements, so you’d better get a patent on that really quickly! It reminds me of a “Whitest Kids ‘U Know” sketch where they feature “Kid Beer” and “Baby Beer”…hahaha! It’s terrible, but funny stuff.

    @Max – I’m not sure of the billing specifics, but I did wonder the same thing. It seems like a huge hassle to have to repaint the lockers every so often…I suppose they might be charging a yearly fee and painting new ones over the old during the summer, but that still leaves it open for debate if the pre-paid company goes under. I wouldn’t have appreciated painted lockers in high school, either. I think this argument is going to boil down to morality and I can already see that many parents are going to be royally pissed about it!

  14. Guntharp

    Hi there may I use some of the information here in this post if I provide a link back to your blog?

Leave a Comment

Copyright 2003 - 2016 Quality Logo Products, Inc., Registration No. TX7-524-201. All Rights Reserved.