Vox nixes vanity ads

Four pages chronicle the journey of one senior boy through his life. The reader watches as the boy grows from a smiling baby to an adult with a beard posing for pictures at Ring Ceremony. There are 16 pictures of him in total.

They’re not from a family photo album. These four pages appeared in last year’s Vox Populi as advertisements. This year, no such ads will exist.

The yearbook staff decided to eliminate all senior “vanity” advertisements in this year’s yearbook after Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra and Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin suggested the elimination to Editors-in-Chief Jordan Bender ’08 and Anjani Nadadur ’08 last spring.

“We made this decision earlier this year in order to be egalitarian,” Nadadur said. “They weren’t ads anymore. They were vanity.”

Last year, advertisements cost $950 for a full page and $475 for a half page, with a discount if ads were received before the first deadline, Oct. 1.

“We are very concerned about the cost of H-W,” Levin said. “There were a lot of parents in the middle for whom this was a major sacrifice.”

Most seniors purchased advertisements last year, resulting in 150 pages of ads. In recent years, senior parents felt pressure to buy ads even if they were unable to afford them, Levin said.
Since advertisements were such a large portion of the yearbook, certain seniors who could afford to pay for coverage were more heavily featured.

It raised the question, is your family lesser because they can’t afford it? Levin said.
“It sends an interesting message that this was a school that celebrates wealth and advantage, everything we’re parodied for.”

In contrast, coverage this year will be based upon merit rather than payment. This year, the yearbook plans to include coverage of which students matriculated from which elementary schools without charge, Bladen said.

Much of the staff’s attentions last year were devoted to designing the advertisements. Staff members spent significant amounts of time meeting with parents and tweaking the ads.

“We would like to concentrate the energy of our team on being creative and innovative,” Salamandra said.

This year, the yearbook staff will have to find another way to support publication costs. The budget is not yet finalized, but the staff is considering raising the price of the yearbook or allowing ads from outside businesses, Bladen said.

Although the yearbook is eliminating parent involvement through ads, Bladen wants the parents to continue being involved.

“We want parents to feel that we’re not depriving them of anything,” Bladen said. The staff is encouraging parents to submit any photographs of their children taken after the June 2007 commencement ceremony.

Some senior parents were initially disappointed about the elimination of advertisements this year, Bladen said.

“We have had mixed reviews from parents,” Bladen said. “By the time we explained the reasons for doing it, they were on board and enthusiastic.”