YO (yo), you can't be serious can you?

Everyone is trying to make a buck and I don't have too much of a problem with firms giving schools a helping hand while getting something for themselves as well. Sponsorships and reward programmes are all over the educational landscape.

Every week one pedlar or another is pushing something on our school which is going to 'transform the way we do... ' whatever, blah, blah, blah. I open my mail with a big green recycling bin right next to my desk and 99% of offers, deals, partnerships, catalogues and exciting learning opportunities go right into it, often unopened. Sales emails head to the electronic version of my big green bin. But you can't blame business owners for trying to sell whatever it is they sell.

The sales push usually stops there. But today I had a follow-up sales phone call soliciting my reaction to some piece of spam I had trashed last week. The call had the hallmarks of the sort of pressure sales calls one gets from timeshare salespeople, vacuum cleaner, double glazing and/or re-roofing firms.

It rolled like this:

1. It started with lots of statements I would agree with (gets the poor sucker into a pattern of saying yes)
- You would agree that in these times children need....resilience, goal setting, kindness... blah, blah, blah

- You want your school values promoted and reinforced.

- You believe that anti bullying messages and promotion of reading are important.

2. Then came the pitch. It would appear that lucky old Waimairi School can have the edifying experience of a 45 minute long assembly for the children which will solve many 21st century social ills AND demonstrate yo-yo tricks.

3. Next comes the peer pressure. "You may want to know that several schools near you are running this programme." They were named, I was surprised at their judgement seeing that I know a couple of the principals mentioned.... Did I mention yo-yos yet?

4. Finally, to close the deal comes the imperative. Act now! "We have only one slot in Christchurch left, we would hate for Waimairi School to missed out.

5. The fine print. It turns out that this 45 minute long assembly can be brought to our school direct from the US of A for free! Free I tell you! Free. No charge for a 45 minute long anti-bullying, pro-school, hooray for kindness, make good choices & always listen to your teachers assembly. Free!

Well, the assembly does involve people performing amazing tricks with yo-yos... I then have to sell their branded yo-yos at school for five days after the assembly. Direct, no commission or percentage to the school. Our reward is just seeing 45 minutes of the 'hooray for everything' performers.

It is all downhill for the yo-yo assembly pedlar from here because I love the Simpsons.

I remember the biting satire and social commentary that past Simpsons episodes contain. I have seen episode 16 from season three. Lisa Simpson's assessment of the educational merit of the yo-yo assembly still makes me chuckle.

Why is this yo-yo sales machine infiltrating New Zealand schools? Has anyone booking this yo-yo sales tour looked at any of the research that shows how little impact this sort of one-off lesson/assembly has on children's learning. Here is some to kick you off:

Bogner, F.X. (1998). The influence of short-term outdoor ecology education on long-term variables of environmental perspective. Journal of Environmental Education, 29(4), 17–29.

Chapman, D. (2004). Imparting values: More than a dilemma. New Zealand Journal of Geography, 117, 17–23.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press. 

Here is some parent feedback from overseas

Here is an overseas parent discussion forum

The very wording of their email to me shows they don't understand New Zealand's school system or culture. We won't be enjoying "America's most popular assembly"

Yo! Thanks Simpsons, you saved the day again.

Hello ______________, 

Thanks so much for your time on the phone today!
Every summer, we visit hundreds of schools in the UK, Australia and New Zealand with no charge performances of The NED Show®, America’s Most Popular Assembly. Last year we saw over 2 dozen schools in the Auckland area; that tour was so amazingly successful, and the response so overwhelmingly positive, that have added additional tours in Christchurch and Wellington this year! 
We will be in the Christchurch area from July 23 through 27, 2012.  We are already scheduled at __________________________________________________; we’d love to come to your school, too!

We have an opening on July 27 at 11:30 am; please let me know as soon as possible if you’d like that spot.  Thanks!
Please see the references from some schools in Auckland last year:

“…the most common word for describing the NED show was EPIC!!! It doesn’t get much better than that around here! …we were SO impressed and TOTALLY in awe!!!”                  
-Joanne K., Principal, Auckland, NZ

“Many thanks for a wonderful show - We really appreciate the opportunity at presenting NED to our community. We have received many positive comments from staff, children and parents.”
-Toni W., Associate Principal, Auckland, NZ

“Thank you for supporting us and encouraging us to be champions.  I learned that if you follow your dream, your dream might come true!  My two goals are to get better at maths and also to be more athletic.  I am going to Never give up, Encourage others, and Do my best, just like NED!”
Waiyan R., student, age 10, Auckland, NZ

We have been sharing our positive message with schools for more than 21 years, and each year we see more than 2.2 million children worldwide!  
Our mission is to motivate and encourage your students to become champions at school and in life. We partner with your school to promote positive behavior and scholastic achievement. We do this by sharing the story of our character NED®, whose name is also an acronym: Never Give Up, Encourage Others, Do Your Best®.

Please explore our website at www.thenedshow.com

Here are the main things you should know about our program:

  • 45 minute all school assembly that includes follow up age level curriculum material

  • Discussion on the importance of kindness, setting goals, making good choices, and paying attention to teachers

  • At your request, our performer is able to incorporate topics important to your school such as anti-bullying, attendance, reading, or testing motivation

  • The message is reinforced in a fun and memorable way using humor, audience participation, story-telling, yo-yo tricks, and object lessons

  • Available at NO CHARGE through our “Pay it Forward” model: Your school receives the entire NED Program at no charge by simply making a selection of NED messaged items (yo-yo’s, instructional DVD’s, etc.) available for purchase for 5 school days following the show. There is no minimum sales requirement, and all items come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. We believe in a “pay it forward” system, and the proceeds from your sale will allow us to visit another school at no charge. Any items that remain unsold can be returned to us, and we will pay the return shipping.

Thank you for taking the time to review this information. As our schedule fills quickly, it is best if you contact me for the most current information regarding remaining dates and times via email.  I welcome any questions you may have, and look forward to hearing from you soon.



  1. Mmm I am a bit up and down about this. Mainly down!

  2. Hey Mike, get the kids to invent a bug zapper for salespeople or some sort of device for eradicating these vermin!


  3. Thank you Mike,
    For this witty and insightful post.You confirmed my gut response to the NED Show flyer that this is direct marketing however well wrapped.
    Concerned about the financial pressure school must feel under that they consider this kind of program at all - but object that this kind of pushy sales activity is being incorporated in to the school day for my kids!?

  4. My daughters today told me Marty aka The Ned show guy told the kids in their "assembly' That if they did not buy yo yo's other kids wouldn't here their message and get fee assemblies. No pressure of course.!!?
    Had an interesting journey trying to find out the legal statutes protecting kids from this kind of advertising and discussing with our local school my concerns that this was accepted into the school at all. They have been great and apologetic!

    Most helpful resources was The Commerce Commission and Keith Norris at the Marketing Association. He suggested we read up on the Adevertising Standars relating to Children:

    I think these particular guidelines were especially relevant:
    1(a) Children should not be urged in advertisements to ask their parents, guardians or caregivers to buy particular products for them.
    2(a) Advertisements should be clearly recognisable as such by children and separated from editorial, programmes or other non-advertising content.
    2(j) Care should be taken with advertisements promoting a competition, premium or loyalty/continuity programme to ensure that advertisements do not encourage excessive repeat purchase.

    Food for thought!!

    1. Thanks for your informative comments Erica.

      I am saddened that this American sales-fest has made it to New Zealand shores and disappointed that fellow principals are enabling it by letting them into their schools.

      Very sad.

  5. ....have any of you actually SEEN the show?

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      No I have not seen the show and I will not see the show until I am allowed to see it without having to put a yo-yo sales pressure onto our school families at the conclusion of the show.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Thank you for outing these people! I work in a school office and I cannot believe that, on top of all the other things we have to do, they're now expecting us to run a toy shop! It's such a racket. If your kid wants a yo-yo, go and buy them a yo-yo. BTW, the products themselves are crap. they last about 10 minutes then the kids are bringing them back to the office because they're broken.