Published on November 1, 2016 | by John Sequeira Photography by Kyle Phillips0
Guelph-Humber: ad-free education
Advertisers paid $5 million for a 30-second commercial during the 2016 Super Bowl. So how much does it cost to put a corporate advertisement on the walls of the University of Guelph-Humber?
Trick question. There are no corporate ads on the walls of Guelph-Humber.
Aside from the vending machines on the first floor and the Starbucks logo in the GH Cafe, Guelph-Humber is ad-free. Not even the school’s ATM represents a major financial institution.
Guelph-Humber’s Assistant Vice-Provost George Bragues says Guelph-Humber enforces a posting policy whereby any type of poster or banner must be approved by the Student Life department in GH108. The policy, which can be found online, states that in most cases postings are restricted to the promotion of campus-related activity.
The terminology in the posting policy leaves a little room for corporate advertisements to appear on campus but Bragues has yet to see corporate ads on the school’s walls in over 11 years as a Guelph-Humber faculty member.
“As far as I know, I don’t remember any ads here,” says Bragues. “Historically, the two parent institutions, the University of Guelph and Humber College take a look at corporate advertising and make those decisions about our campus.”
According to the posting policies on Guelph-Humber and Humber College’s websites, both institutions enforce nearly identical regulations. However, after walking through both schools, there’s an obvious difference between Guelph-Humber and Humber College on the walls.
Humber College currently displays large Booster Juice and Adidas ads, just to name a few. Kenzie Rigby, a fourth year Guelph-Humber student, attributes the difference in appearance to Guelph-Humber’s small size.
“You really notice that GH is ad-free when you cross the bridge to Humber,” says Rigby. “Around Linx, by the bookstore, in the food court, ads are all over Humber and we have nothing. Probably because they have way more students, more of an audience for advertisers,”
In theory, corporate advertising could generate an entirely new stream of income for Guelph-Humber, and a massive one at that. Bragues believes we live in a commercial society but there is reasonable concern that schools may become dependent on corporations for their funding.
“With respect to corporate advertising, the plus is that it’s a money generator,” says Bragues. “You’ve got those that say you can monetize the space. Our students are exposed to advertisements as soon as they leave this building – why not here? Then there are those who look suspiciously on advertising because this is supposed to be an academic space, not one with corporate influence.”
Jon Macdonald, a store owner of five McDonald’s restaurants in North Etobicoke used to have hiring ads in Humber College but has never been allowed to advertise in Guelph-Humber.
“My stores can end up short staffed from time to time and we’d contact Humber College and post hiring ads,” says Macdonald. “Our ads weren’t allowed in Guelph-Humber because they were never approved by the University of Guelph.”
Macdonald says it has been easier to get ads in neighbouring high schools than in Guelph-Humber. Conversely, fourth-year student Rigby likes how challenging it is for advertisers to post in Guelph-Humber.
“I’ve got an ad-blocker on my web-browser, I hate being surrounded by ads. I truly appreciate the ad-free space Guelph-Humber provides me,” says Rigby.