Canadian based start up Screenad Digital Billboards is causing controversy by enabling big name companies such as Kellogs and Burger King to advertise to children via its screen savers.
Screenad was set up by John Robinson, who developed the package and is now president of the company. The firm has two other employees and also hires freelancers and contract workers when needed.
Robinson came up with the idea for Screenad when preparing billboard advertisements for production. After noticing how much better the ads looked on computer screens, he believed he could help solve the funding crisis in local Ontario schools.
"The government is not there any more to help schools out. People are realising that the corporate world has to come to the rescue and they're not going to do it for nothing," he said.
But he does not plan to limit his scheme to Canada, and hopes to take his screen savers to the UK and US in the near future.
"We are six months into negotiations with a European arm of the education system, which will start in the UK. We have talked about this to the highest levels as a revenue generator for those in need of funds," he explained.
He added that Screenad also provides an information package for corporates, which can be distributed over an organisation?s network. "We see this as a growth area," he said.
But Heather-Jane Robertson, author of the book, "No More Teachers, No More Books: The Commercialization of Canada's Schools", said: "I think it's despicable - those looking after and caring about what kids learn have decided to sell small parts of kids' brains."
Screen savers are just the latest example of corporations invading the classroom, she added.
Screenad is currently available in 10 community colleges and five school boards throughout Canada, including Toronto and Calvery, and is being viewed by students from kindergarten to college. Administration offices also have access to the programs, and updates are downloaded from the Internet onto the schools? servers.
The electronic ads appear as a screen saver on users? computer screens, but the company pledges that it will not accept advertising from the tobacco industry, companies selling alcoholic beverages, 1-900 lines, massage or escort services, religious or anti-Semitic groups or any groups that have "negative" social or moral views.
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