Product Placement at Universities

DellHallPublic higher education in the U.S. is not in good shape—and the main reason is lack of funds.  States will not increase their funding, and often they severely limit tuition increases.  My university appears to have hit upon a solution:  product placement and direct advertising.  The new computer building, the Gates Building, is part of the Dell Computer  Science Center, and has a Dell logo and signs for eBay and PayPal in front of the building.

But why stop here?  Five hundred students stare at me for 1-1/4 hours 28 times each fall semester.  The university could ask me to advertise—wear a cap, or a t-shirt, just like a tennis star—showing the product of whichever companies bid the most for the rights to advertise on my apparel during class.  While I would probably insist on some of the royalties, the bilateral monopoly between the university and me would surely raise funds for the university.  With enough professors required to do this, public universities could alleviate some of their financial problems. No doubt readers have similar clever ideas for product placement that would help fund public universities, albeit at some cost in dignity.

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  1. RandomJokester says:

    Advertise for Flomax or Avodart on the urinal cakes in the professor restrooms. The manufacturer gets plenty of ad time with the target audience.

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  2. mfw13 says:

    I think part of the issue is that universities have many parts and that there is relatively little analysis of what gets spent where.

    For example, how much of an undergraduate’s tuition bill actually gets spent on items which an undergraduate can benefit from?

    Where does the money to pay non-teaching tenured professors come from? Is it all from grants, or does some of it come from tuition payments?

    Etc, etc.

    Never mind actually having a serious discussion about the purpose and function of a university…

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  3. caleb b says:

    Pensions are probably a huge expense. Paying people that USED to work until the final death gasp of either the worker or their spouse, well, it sounds like a stupid idea… especially for folks with zero actuarial inclination.

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  4. Tarrou says:

    “Public higher education in the U.S. is not in good shape—and the main reason is lack of funds. ”

    I could not disagree more. Kentucky Packrat has done a bang-up job with his criticism, so I won’t attempt it in long form.

    Higher education is admitting too many people, hiring too many people who aren’t professors, lowering standards, spending FAR too much money on non-academic “lifestyle” facilities, and diluting their own brand with all of it. College is no longer education, it’s day care for adult children.

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  5. Ethan says:

    I think this is an interesting idea, similar to what professional sports teams have begun taking into consideration for their practice jerseys as well as their actual game jerseys as has been seen in the MLS and the WNBA. My question would be whether it might be wiser for the Universities or corporations in question to have only the most popular professors don the brands of the highest bidders. That is to say: Might there be an association effect wherein popular professors contribute to a positive association with a brand whilst unpopular professors contribute to a negative association?

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  6. steve cebalt says:

    Hi NZ: You make an excellent point in your reply to another person, when you say, “I don’t think your comment proves anything, though I also don’t see why it should deserve thumbs down. I’ll never fully understand why they have that system on this blog.” So true.

    — The binary voting creates a bias — one of the economists here could name the specific bias, I am sure — when I read comments. I am sure I interpret comments differently if they have very high or very low ratings.

    — High ratings are labeled “well loved.” Low ratings are “hidden.” The merit of an idea is not democratic. Popular does not = true, or valid. Tainting contrarian views with the “hidden” label seems very un-Freakonomics, especially given the motto, “The Hidden Side of Everything.” Although oddly, the “hidden” label always attracts my attention and readership MORE.

    — The binary false choice of Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down is a very crude metric — especially for a data-driven forum. Some scale — 1 to 10 or whatever — would yield more refined results.

    I suppose having no ratings would address these points best. But I do like a rating system for entertainment value. I’d propose a more refined 1-10 scale.

    Am I overthinking this? Of course. That’s sorta what we do here, and why we love this blog. :)

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