Battling for Boosters Along Highways And Byways
An effort to advertise the strengths of a struggling school district has turned into the battle of the billboards.
Boston school officials started advertising the strengths of the city's public-school system last October on 30 billboards across the city--space provided free by Ackerly Communications of Massachusetts Inc., one of the largest billboard firms in the country. (See Education Week, Oct. 27, 1982.)
Ackerly provides free billboard space for "public-service" messages whenever it has a board not leased by a commercial company. Organizations that want the space are required to pay for the paper, printing, and posting of the messages--which costs approximately $100 per message.
When Boston officials discovered that Ackerly also leased billboards in other cities, it began to expand its public-relations efforts. They saw it as one way of repairing the damage to the district's nationwide image brought about by the city's desegre-gation problems, one official said.
Thus Dade County, Fla., became one site of a billboard promoting the Boston public schools. "The Dade County people took one look at this and went nuts," said Thomas J. Walsh, a regional public-relations manager for Ackerly.
They were soon asking Ackerly how to obtain the free space, and by last December they had billboards not only in the Miami area but also in, of all places, Boston.
Seattle officials also were taken aback by a rumor that Boston billboards were going up in their area. They not only received permission to put up their own advertisements locally, said James R. Hawkins, a public-information officer, but also thwarted Boston's plans to move into their market.