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Promise of big bucks for school bus ads appears to be a bust

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Posted at 5:44 PM, Mar 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-14 07:36:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- It seemed like a great deal for the Jordan School District: put ads on their buses and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

But the big bucks never materialized, and now the district is pulling the plug on the deal.

Two years ago, Jordan School District became the first in Utah to sell ad space on the side of their yellow school buses to generate revenue.

But the ads have only brought in a fraction of what they were supposed to.

The district’s school board of education hired Alpha Media to sell and place ads on the sides of more than 200 buses. In the cover letter of its initial proposal, the company promised in return $1.4 million in revenue over a four-year period.

Susan Pulsipher, vice president of Jordan School Board, said they are making a change.

“So we tried it with them and we had success and now we have this other way of going about it, and we're going to try that and see how that works and then decide,” said vice president of Jordan School Board Susan Pulsipher.

After two years, the school district is putting the brakes on its deal with the ad sales agency. Invoices show the district was paid less than $60,000 in the last two years. That’s a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the district won’t admit Alpha Media underperformed.

“We felt like we got a great experience with it,” Pulsipher said. “It’s a little bit like a pilot program. We tried it. We saw it—what the appetite was and the opportunities to get people to come, so we thought it went well.”

The Jordan School District claims they aren’t resigning with Alpha Media because of anything the company failed to deliver. Pulsipher said they have decided to go another route that lets students get involved in the advertising.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to give students real world experience in advertising, and we thought if we could do it in-house and let our students and our teachers be the ones who create the advertising it would be a great experience for our kids,” she said.

Now, another Utah school district has signed with Dallas-based Alpha Media with the same six-figure projections that were promised to Jordan School District two years ago.

'They said there could be a potential you could make $200,000 a year, and we said great,” said Chris Williams, who is a spokesman for Davis School District.

FOX 13 News had a scheduled phone interview with Alpha Media Thursday afternoon, but the company couldn’t be reached at the scheduled time and cited a family emergency.  In their last email, they said they have big plans for big ad campaigns in Davis School District, but the district has not seen any compensation yet.

“We're really early in the process,” Williams said. “We’ve only had a few ads on our busses right now, and we haven’t generated money for that yet.”