Youth Marketing: Don’t fear taking it to the next level

Is tv corrupting the ability of today's youth to think and be creative?Umm, I'm not sure, but it has a definite impact on how advertising messages are being received.Television's prevalence is largely based on its ability to provide faster and faster...

Is tv corrupting the ability of today’s youth to think and be creative?

Umm, I’m not sure, but it has a definite impact on how advertising messages are being received.

Television’s prevalence is largely based on its ability to provide faster and faster inputs – remote controls, incredible flexibility, an entirely visual presentation. It means a picture is now worth far more than a thousand words.

All of this has created a ’90s youth monster who loves to surf.

Why all the channel skimming?

The answer is simple: perception – there is either nothing on tv or there’s too much.

A close look reveals a huge number of channels and programming that fails to move quite fast enough.

Within this flipping, viewers are really splicing together their own programming. Surfing is less a characteristic of a short attention span than one of boredom and impatience.

This generation has a need for both entertainment and information. They’ll flip until they find something that maintains their interest or until they have picked up everything they need to know.

Flip, flip, flip … someone in Saskatoon is now just as hip as someone in Toronto.

So if it only takes a split second to distinguish between something captivating and something boring, how does an advertiser take advantage of the medium?

Nike, Levi Strauss and Calvin Klein all have a pretty good idea.

In Nike’s AirMax2 print campaign, if you look into the image of shoes, you’ll notice several faces.

Every time you see the ad, you will look for them, absolutely every time.

Their tv commercials are full-motion cannons.

Images will last on the screen for only a split second, but slow it down on a vcr and get blown away 10-times over.

Talk about the ultimate surf.

Levi’s Anything is Possible billboard campaign uses stubby lines of chopped-off text that quickly resolve themselves, highly reminiscent of a blip or a roll on your tv screen (spellcheck would go crazy.)

The characters who reach out to you look and feel 3-D. These ads are not 2-D, they are vr.

Or check these print campaigns: Converse with its escalator rider; several of the Calvin Klein ads; and (although few in Canada have seen it) the European MTV Sports Ad.

All of them are composed of numerous frames that make an inconspicuous reference to celluloid, but paste them together and you’ve got a full-motion video.

This is not to say that all of the best ads emulate tv, but some of the craftiest ones do.

Their creators recognize that:

- this generation has the ability to simultaneously collect and interpret a tremendous amount of information.

- the inputs do not always have to be sequential or linear (this is what makes surfing possible).

- the messages do not necessarily have to be overt, as long as they get the point across clearly, and,

- often, the most successful ads are those which challenge the normal process of information retrieval and absorption.

Today’s generation is pretty bright and wants to go to the next level both visually and mentally.

Whether or not you make it obvious, don’t be afraid to take them there.

Gregory Skinner is the director of research and Doug Stewart is publisher of Watch Magazine Inc., a youth market organization dedicated to producing a bi-weekly newspaper (Watch), quarterly newsmagazine (S.A.) and youth market events.