Balloon 'lesson' was really advertising

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Every once in a while a Wednesday Journal news section article manages to generate more questions than it answers. It's all hot-air for Brooks kids [News, June 1] is a recent example. Here are some questions the story did not get around to answering (not to mention asking):

1. When did "promotional programs teaching kids about balloon history and technology" become an instructional priority at District 97?

2. Is it possible that this "promotional program" has less to do with "teaching kids about balloon history and technology" and more to do with getting the sponsoring realtor's name in front of about 100 impressionable students?

3. For those students, was this marketing session optional or mandatory?

4. I have heard that brand placement and promotion in schools is one of the hot new marketing trends. What compensation did D97 receive in return for allowing this marketing opportunity, delivered to about 100 of its students?

5. What compensation did Wednesday Journal receive for printing this blatant advertisement on behalf of one of its presumably valued advertisers, passed off as a community news article (or was it labeled as a "Special Advertising Section" and I just missed it)?

Dave Mercer
Oak Park

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d97 parent   

Posted: June 21st, 2011 2:50 PM

Why would anyone complain about career day? Do you guys need a hobby or something?

OP Parent  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 11:44 AM

Just a thought - what kind of information did Brooks send home BEFORE the event, explaining what would be happening, who would be there, what the goals were etc? In my experience there's lots of "school-parent team" talk, but very little action. Maybe if D97 walked the talk about involving parents they wouldn't have as many after-the-fact complaints like this.


Posted: June 21st, 2011 10:46 AM

@PParent, you think you have it bad! After seeing this demonstration, my kid stole my credit card and BOUGHT REAL ESTATE. What the heck are we gonna do with this?

Phil of Good ideas  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 9:00 AM

I anticipate Mr. Mercer has no media of any kind in his home: no magazines, TV, radio, newspapers, internet, etc. He may have a case abouts ads in school, but this is not the example to use. Streisand Effect, indeed! Real estate agents are fungible anyway.

good grief  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 7:14 AM

@lynn, it was career day, and the career was balloon pilot (that's really his job!) so the balloon pilot is the guy who showed up. Apparently he isn't allowed to fly in Chicago airspace, so it's not like it is a local option. I am grateful to him and all the other people who gave their time to talk to our kids, particularly given the crankiness that is being directed toward him.


Posted: June 21st, 2011 12:02 AM

TO PISSED PARENT: I bet your kid then used the balloon to fly over to McDonalds and order a kids happy meal because he was also hypnotized by marketing images of Ronald Mcdonald. Apparently, when you said NO, he took matters into his own hands!!!! influenced by


Posted: June 20th, 2011 4:47 PM

Children influence markets to to tune of Billions of dollars every year. There is a reason why the cereal is very low in grocery stores. Children shop and shop well. So dont kid yourself about companies not targeting kids.

JTR in OP  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 4:38 PM

Balloons! Hot Dogs! What next? Pushing Hybrid Cars down our innocent little consumers. Good god, get a clue. Worry about our nation, having spent all of our money, then all of theirs, now starting to bankrupt their offspring. If you don't the cardboard box lobby will have to start marketing to future generations. Drugs, crime, violence, impatience, irresponsibility, lack of self respect and self reliance. These are not balloon induced issues---hit those first!

Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 4:31 PM

I'm all about the "commercial-free childhood," but this is not a good example. It's career day - if a nurse comes from OP Hospital, is that an ad too? Better conversation starter - why are all kids in our middle schools required to have gmail accounts (Google)? Is it advertising, or just good sense to use a free service instead of maintaining mail servers? (I'm not sure, but I think it's an interesting question)

lynn from ashworth  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 3:55 PM

it seems to be that since it was career day, the company could have sent a real estate agent rather than a balloon pilot.

epic lulz  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 2:53 PM

Dave Mercer is obviously on Re/Max's payroll. Google "Streisand Effect".

Dave Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 1:57 PM

@laura ortoleva: If the realtor was conducting this program using a logo-free balloon, I might buy it as community service. It would be interesting to see if they would do it on that basis.

Dave Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 1:56 PM

@Interested Parent: If you are comfortable with the way our schools are being transformed into conduits to funnel children to advertising, that's your call. I'm not so thrilled with it. What I object to most is the delivery of marketing labeled as education. Blurring the distinction between lesson and product is part of the new marketing trend.

Dave Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 1:54 PM

@Julian Parent: I am not surprised to hear that your middle schooler couldn't tell you the name on the hot air balloon. But when he sees the logo somewhere, he may remember the cool thing he saw in school. Might even mention it to his parents.

Dave Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 1:52 PM

OK, I think I've got it now: the realtor sent its balloon to Brooks to promote careers in Buddhist advertising agencies.

laura ortoleva from elgin  

Posted: June 20th, 2011 12:46 PM

The balloon program is RE/MAX's way of giving back to the community. It is a very popular educational program that explains the physics and aerodynamics of hot air ballooning to children in elementary school. It is presented by a hot air balloon pilot.

Pissed Parent  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 2:58 PM

I am really unforgiving to the Julian administration for this. When my child got home from school that day he stole my credit card and BOUGHT A HOT AIR BALLOON. It was non-refundable as well, so now I am stuck with a hot air balloon, where am I supposed to put this thing? Shame on you Julian.

Julian Parent  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 11:45 AM

Dave, while my middle schooler is definitely "impressionable" he couldn't tell me the name on the hot air balloon. He just thought it was "cool". I don't think middle schoolers really care or think about real estate.

Interested Parent  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 7:36 PM

Perhaps you don't realize it, but every single item used in a school has some type of advertising it: textbook companies, pen brands, notebooks, types of computers, etc. I also think there is a difference in having a presenter from a company that students might purchase items from right now versus a company that might interest you in their services in 10 -15 years. I think this is much ado about nothing! The real effort should be to help students be critical consumers who think before buying.


Posted: June 17th, 2011 2:55 PM

And yeah, advertising is a career! Like it or not.


Posted: June 17th, 2011 2:55 PM

@Dave, since I have a kid in the school, I actually know it was for career day. And yes, there were some obscure careers (buddhist monk, for example). Just because it wasn't mentioned in the article doesn't mean it isn't true. And it's not the first time the WJ left out crucial information.

Dave Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 2:23 PM

@Donna P: thanks for your comment. That's exactly why I brought it up.

Dave Mercer from Oak PArk  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 2:21 PM

3. But all that is beside the point. To be direct about it, I seriously doubt that the realtor is sending its pilot to schools out of some abiding interest in promoting an obscure occupation, a license for which you don't technically even need a high school diploma. The Wikipedia article notes that one of the primary opportunities in professional ballooning is in "corporate advertising".

Dave Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2011 2:19 PM

@jo: a few comments: 1. I reread the article and found no reference to career day. (Or to any orientation about employment in the area of real estate, for that matter.) Part of my gripe about the article was how uninformative it was. 2. The Wikipedia article on hot air ballooning includes this statement: "While most balloon pilots fly for the pure joy of floating through the air, many are able to make a living as a professional balloon pilot." I couldn't find any specific numbers to give more meaning to the rather indefinite word "many", but I am betting it is in the "tens" or maybe even "dozens".

Donna P from Oak Park  

Posted: June 16th, 2011 9:35 AM

This is a valuable perspective that continues a civil discussion about advertising within our schools. I hope it helps D97, the WJ, and the community think more about the commercialism surrounding our children and that businesses get something out of their ongoing "giving" to our schools. I'm not sure where I come out on this particular example, but I appreciate you bringing it to the forefront for discussion.


Posted: June 15th, 2011 3:53 PM

The balloon demo was for career day. There were also hospice nurses, a buddhist monk, a "fashion engineer," etc. Last time I looked, being a pilot (even for a balloon) and/or a real estate agent (REMAX) were career options.

former Brooks parent  

Posted: June 15th, 2011 3:44 PM

My only comment is that the Brooks staff must have gotten tired of showing all the movies and old episodes of TV series that counted as "instructional material" when my kids were there. Maybe some day they'll come up with a really new idea - like teach real content. Some of the teachers at Brooks already do this, but the admin is fine with teachers who just pass the time of day and then race to the parking lot as soon as the bell rings. Gee, maybe we need to raise taxes again.

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