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YPSILANTI, Mich. – “It’s never too early to start saving for your future.” That’s the message being promoted by Ypsilanti Area Federal Credit Union to students in the Ypsilanti Public Schools as they ride the familiar yellow buses to and from classes. YAFCU is the first business to take advantage of the district’s new policy allowing ads on school buses. But reports in publications such as USA Today suggest the idea is growing. It now includes districts in Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts and Florida as well as Michigan. Ypsilanti is a good example of what is motivating school boards – money. Districts are either scrambling for scarce dollars in tight local economies, or if the economy and population are growing the demand for new schools is outstripping tax revenues. The idea is not without critics, who question the notion of exposing a captive audience of young children to advertising. But Emma Jackson, spokeswoman for the Ypsilanti school district, says there have been no formal complaints. She notes ads are reviewed by a committee that includes students, parents and school board members. Her phone has been ringing with calls from other districts through the United States. Most calls involve two questions: Have there been any complaints, and how can they get hold of InSight Media, the Pittsburgh-based company that specializes in school bus advertising. Gregg Gurka, vice president at YAFCU, indicates the credit union was simply “in the right place at the right time. One of our directors works for the Ypsilanti Schools transportation department. When the school board approved the idea of the ads, InSight Media talked to him and he sent the salesman over to me.” Gurka notes the credit union has been involved in various school activities, including a small branch at one of the middle schools. The school bus ads are intended to reinforce such efforts to teach students the value of saving money. He’s very pleased with the ad. “It’s 100% better than what I thought would have come out. We were very happy. In fact, we’re looking at trying to turn it into a banner for the outside of our building,” Gurka says. The cost, at least for first-on-board advertisers such as YAFCU, is low enough to delight most marketers. Creative, production and placement totaled $250. Cost per month to appear in 10 school buses is $200 a month, and the credit union can chose the buses in order to appeal to specific age groups. The ads will remain in place for at least three months. YAFCU will assess the reaction before formally deciding on lengthening the run. If response is positive enough, the number of buses may be increased. “I can understand people’s apprehension about putting ads on school buses. You can really promote the wrong product. Hopefully school districts will be selective. I would suggest other credit unions looking at an opportunity like this put an ad together and get an all-round representative view from various age groups,” Gurka says. [email protected]

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