Advertisers can use existing youth vehicles better

There aren't enough youth media in Canada. There are fewer TV options compared to the U.S. (even after considering the one-tenth market size ratio) or the U.K for that matter, and the national nets give lip service to their kids' programming...

There aren’t enough youth media in Canada. There are fewer TV options compared to the U.S. (even after considering the one-tenth market size ratio) or the U.K for that matter, and the national nets give lip service to their kids’ programming component. There are also too few Canadian Web sites where youth congregate, and a definite paucity of magazines. And other than a few kiddie-pop local options, there’s not much in the way of radio choice.

Largely, the dedicated-youth media we do have is good, but we should have more.

While the U.S. spillover is a real financial impediment for mags, it should be possible for good, strategically partnered books to break through in the right niche. And the market-creep challenges on the mag side would not preclude a Canadian version of Radio Disney (OK, so there’s still the CRTC to get through, I know).

Although players such as YTV or MuchMusic work every angle on air and off to create a platform for innovative marketing activities, overall there’s definitely room for advertisers to use the gamut of existing options more creatively, and with more integration and interactivity.

Reaching youth is all about connecting with the things they’re into, which sounds simple until you try to target the right age group with the right triggers (not as easy as it sounds) without precise niche media. If you are more than three years off your target demo, you’ve likely missed the boat completely. And if you’re pitching too low, the association with a too-junior media environment could tarnish your brand with an older demo. Kid programming execs know that beyond the preschool set, kids media and entertainment picks are often aspirational, so they offer a stage-older-than-you-are-now fare. Which makes reaching this fast-moving target audience even more of a challenge.

No wonder a lot of emphasis in marketing to youth is placed on tie-ins, contests and other cool-by-association sponsorship initiatives. The other button to push is interactivity, and increasingly, advertisers are finding ways to integrate online components. In December, U.S. kidnet Nickelodeon did a tie-in with Nintendo that required kids to go to the Web to see the last panel of a six-panel Pokémon comic featured in Nickelodeon’s magazine. A good way to get eyeballs and advertising across media.

Kids and teens glom onto things at light speed – which is also how fast they get ‘so over it.’ Tie-ins that take a long time to execute can be risky (Pokémon pasta, for example, has a long manufacturing lead time), which is why anything that can be done with more immediacy is a better bet. And while more media options would help here, it’s not the only avenue. Go off-road.

Take, for example, a promotion cited by Mark Childs of Kellogg Canada this issue: slap-on armbands at the YTV Psychoblast tour emblazoned with the Corn Pops logo. Not only was it effective at the concert when kids waved their arms in the air for Christina Aguilera, but teens subsequently used them as hair bands.

Old-style techniques can still work with today’s kids, who are very open to exclusives, special offers and contests with unique prizes. Just as a concert can be a great place to market your cereal, a cereal box can be a great place to market your movie. A recent quest for a Grinch hat and mitts set at our house sparked the purchase of a second box of Oreo Grinch cookies (needed two UPCs to fulfill the on-pack offer), with the result that my son has become a green-tipped billboard for the movie flitting about the schoolyard. Now that’s effective.

Whatever you put out there, it has to be authentic and compelling. There’s too much good stuff vying for kids’ attention to risk anything lame (a few studies have even shown that kids are sleeping less to accommodate the extra stuff they’re squeezing into their days, such as being online). In this environment, an effort such as Aeroplan Kids Lost Star quasi-comic book mailer, a too-bland and generic offering, won’t cut it. Today, the stakes have been raised. If you’re going to do a comic, recruit the pros. The standard is now coventures with DC Comics (like NASCAR/Kmart) or send kids to meet the Pokémon creator in Japan, or run a network for a day (Noggin, a U.S. educational network). Great freebies abound. It’s great to be a kid, but it’s harder to wow them.

Cheers, mm

Mary Maddever