Create online communities to reach youth, says expert

Canadian marketers targeting the lucrative teen market must start creating the kind of online communities young people are seeking, or risk losing their audiences to U.S. sites. According to Patrick Thoburn, director of research and Internet strategy at Toronto-based Youth Culture,...

Canadian marketers targeting the lucrative teen market must start creating the kind of online communities young people are seeking, or risk losing their audiences to U.S. sites.

According to Patrick Thoburn, director of research and Internet strategy at Toronto-based Youth Culture, a youth media and research company, online features like message forums, chat lines, music, merchandise, information and, often, peer education, are building compelling online relationships with teens.

At a recent breakfast seminar organized by DoubleClick Canada, Thoburn unveiled some of the findings of Youth Culture’s teen study, to be released in April and discussed at Strategy’s Understanding Youth conference, May 8 and 9.

According to Thoburn, the number one Canadian site among Canadian teens is Muchmusic.com. Other sites that register with teens are primarily U.S.-based, including Zap.com, Comics.com, Spank.com, Billboard online, Delias.com and Bolt.com.

The latter, a New York-based site for high school and college students, with two million registered users, is, according to Thoburn, the most popular U.S. online community among Canadian teens – 10% of its visitors are Canadian, despite the fact that it has done no marketing in Canada.

The users of Bolt.com create 95% of the content, chat rooms are unsupervised and unedited, and every member gets a free local phone number, where they can receive voice-mail, and send and receive e-mail and faxes, says Thoburn. The Bolt online store constantly drops unwanted products and picks up stuff teens want – based on regular teen polls.

‘By turning over power to the teens, Bolt is trying to change franchising into a franchise itself,’ he says. ‘These online communities really go beyond the more passive relationships of traditional media – it’s the social and interactive aspects of these sites that make them most fulfilling for teens.’

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.
Google

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.