September 2, 2003 / Advertising / Fall 2003

A Vested Interest in Ad Sales

Written by Karen Ulrich

Money raised from ad sales at Shaler Area High School, Pittsburgh, Pa., has continued to increase over the years based on the idea that the more motivated salespeople you have, the more money you can raise.

For the past several years our ad volume has exceeded $60,000. We think we have found the right people and the right motivation to provide us with a successful annual ad sales campaign. We also have learned how to organize a large sale.

Our sales staff is large each year because our ad sales campaign is an annual senior class project that lasts two weeks. The campaign is promoted as an event on the school calendar so each new senior class knows to expect it. Their involvement gives them a more important role in their book and over the years it has become a class pride thing: “We can beat last year’s class.”

In addition to using class pride as a motivator, two types of competitions — homeroom and individual — are available to give the students the opportunity to win prizes. We get them excited on the first day of the campaign at a senior kickoff assembly, where materials are distributed and the sales procedures and prizes are explained. We also keep senior parents informed by sending home a letter with the drive dates and important tips.

At the assembly, the editors introduce the yearbook theme and explain how important ad sales will be to achieve the class’ goals for the yearbook. The seniors also are informed of the slogan for their sales drive. One purpose of the slogan is to illustrate sales results. For example, for 2003, the slogan was, “We Hold the Key in 2003.” To recognize the sales achievements of each senior, we put their name on a key-shaped cutout and hung them in the lobby during last year’s drive.

We set a sales quota for each senior, usually $30, which equals two of our cheapest patron ads. For the individual competition, students who make their quotas have their names entered in drawings every other day. This way students increase their chances of winning a drawing by reaching the quota sooner. Prizes have included inflatable furniture, a dorm refrigerator and a CD jukebox. There also are prizes for reaching sales levels, such as a senior decal for $30 in sales; a senior pen for $50; a senior keychain for $80; a senior travel mug for $100; a free yearbook for $150; and higher level prizes for sales of more than $200. The top individual seller gets a pair of prom tickets.

For the homeroom competition, each homeroom makes up a name based on the teacher’s name and makes a poster for it — for example, Bender’s Bodacious Bovines or Dahl-li Llamas. To win prizes, homerooms have a quota to reach, which equals the number of students in the homeroom multiplied by the quota amount per student.

Once a homeroom reaches 100 percent of their quota, they get suckers; after 200 percent, candy bars; after 400 percent, coupons for a free ice cream item from the cafeteria. The winning homeroom gets its picture in color in the ads section and a sheet cake.

During the assembly we recommend seniors look at last year’s book to see the companies who bought ads, then visit them to get new ones. We send any businesses who advertised the previous year a copy of their ad and its cost so they know to expect seniors to be soliciting again this year. In the past we have sent businesses decals that said, “We Support Shaler Area Spectrum” for them to display in their windows.

Ad copy and payment must be submitted when an ad is ordered. The copy and money are collected in homeroom and tallied each day after school, which is important for bookkeeping and prize distribution, also known as motivation.

Our campaign needs money up front to get started. Most of that money goes to prizes. It is money well spent because our goal is to get a high percentage of seniors to participate. With our ad sales, a student could sell $30 or $300 and still have a chance to win a nice prize. If they all sold one grad ad to their parents and a business ad, they would have their quota. And the student business manager has earned a great resume item.

We do daily P.A. announcements on the progress of the sale similar to horse race play-by-play broadcasts — “On Day 4 of the ad drive, the Bodacious Bovines of 12-4 have pulled ahead of the Dahl-li Llamas of 12-10 with 68 percent of their quota…” We keep wall charts of homeroom progress and update those daily after school.

Granted, it is hectic for two weeks for me and the other two yearbook advisers — Faith Jack and Erin Fisher. And you need the support of senior class homeroom teachers and the administration, but it ends up being an event seniors remember.

The past couple years, we have raised more than $60,000, and before that we were shocked when more than $50,000 a year came in. But what is even more amazing is what a group of motivated senior high school students can do when they put their minds to it.

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Karen Ulrich