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Schools look into advertising

“We don’t claim to be a full solution for the financial hurdles, but we are a partial one.” -Tom Krehbiel Photo by Megan Collier (click for larger version)
May 19, 2010 - With the district looking to chip $9 million from an $87 million budget, a chance for more revenue instead of budget cuts was a welcome option for the school board.

Alternative Revenue Development Company (ARD), a newly developed advertising business based in Bloomfield Hills, presented the board, April 28, with options to create between $44,000 and $83,000 on the moderate end, and $71,000 to $103,000 on the high end, next year.

Partnering with ARD would mean national and local businesses advertising on the district's Website and around school grounds.

"The whole idea of alternative revenue development is to bring in sustainable, significant revenue streams for school districts via the creation of commercially-sponsored networks," said Tom Krehbiel, a vice president in the company. "We don't claim to be a full solution for the financial hurdles that you have, but we are a partial one."

By the 2012-13 school year, Krehbiel predicts Lake Orion Community Schools could be making between $156,000 and $205,000.

At their May 12 meeting, the board gave administrators the go-ahead in pursuing a partnership with ARD. Discussions on contract details and where any revenue will be spent will be brought back to the board in the future.

"This is the kind of thing that I think we've been looking for: someone to take a professional approach," said Boardmember Bob Gritzinger. "It's people who are in advertising, selling advertising, instead of trying to cause school district employees to become advertising salespeople – that's not a good model."

Superintendent Ken Gutman said, "Years ago if you had said I would be in favor of some form of advertising in schools, I would have been very opposed to it. But what I think we've had presented to us was something that showed more of a professional approach. It's something that is not indoctrinating children in classrooms and on buses. I'd like us to move forward and look at some of our key locations – our high school athletic fields, perhaps our middle school gymnasiums."

According to Krehbiel's presentation, ARD essentially plays the middleman between companies and school districts, grouping districts into regions or networks "to get some mass."

"It's a new media marketing channel that we're providing for our advertisers," he said.

Any advertising is first filtered through ARD to leave out any tobacco, alcohol and sex, and then filtered through the district before it goes out to the community.

"Our goal is not to reach the kids; it's to reach the community," said Krehbiel, noting that marketing messages could be placed around athletic and performance venues, on the district's Website, and piggybacked on "backpack stuffers" and newsletters, if parents opt into that campaign.

According to Krehbiel, ARD is working with 16 southeastern Michigan school districts right now.

Their advertising clients include national and regional heavyweights like Meijer, Comcast, Buffalo Wild Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Blue Cross Blue Shield and ABC Warehouse. He says local businesses can certainly be utilized, as well.

Schools will make between 50 and 65 percent of the revenue, depending on if it comes from network, local or e-commerce sources, but, says Krehbiel, ARD doesn't intend to infringe on any programs already in place with PTA/Os, booster clubs and other groups who partner with businesses.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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