Marketers don’t go crazy at PsykoBlast

How successfully are marketers taking advantage of the potential out there? Strategy has given itself fly-on-the-wall status in order to get the buzz on what works and what doesn't - and if some opportunities are being missed altogether. This issue, we send reporter Lisa D'Innocenzo to a youth concert to see how well marketers - who talk a good grassroots - are really doing at street level.

How successfully are marketers taking advantage of the potential out there? Strategy has given itself fly-on-the-wall status in order to get the buzz on what works and what doesn’t – and if some opportunities are being missed altogether. This issue, we send reporter Lisa D’Innocenzo to a youth concert to see how well marketers – who talk a good grassroots – are really doing at street level.

On June 25, I made the trek to the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., for PsykoBlast, an annual summer concert organized by YTV and SFX Music Canada that tours across Canada and attracts about 21,000 kids in total. The event is heavily promoted online and on-air, as well as through print and radio ads.

There are some 3,200 music fans at the Mississauga venue, many of them pre-adolescent girls dolled up in glittery makeup, offering a captive audience for marketers who pursue the six-to16-year-old demographic.

On the way to the entrance of the stadium, kids and some parents hurry. A few run. I’m bombarded by loud music reverberating from four vehicles splashed with EnergyFM creative. I want to check out what they have going on, but decide my tix, which I have to pick up at the box office, are a priority.

By the time I get in, Wave is belting out some typical boy-band fare. The event features four all-boy bands, with Snow, b4-4 and soulDecision joining Wave.

In the entrance is a Kellogg stand, the best location in the joint. Kellogg has giveaways that pint-size music fans clamour for, like colourful Pop Tart tattoos. Later, I see half a dozen young girls lined up in a row proudly baring their tattooed little arms in front of a camera. I am invited to sign a message to my fave band on a huge Kellogg banner, and am assured that all four groups will read them. There is barely any room left and I take a pass.

Several kids ask for another Kellogg trinket: a neon yellow wristband emblazoned with the Corn Pops Rocks logo. Unfortunately, only the first 500 people get one. Nonetheless, when I tell them I’m media, so they don’t think I’m a weird twentysomething who makes a habit of collecting shockingly bright wristbands, one is pulled out from a secret stash. Later when I see a select few wearing them, I feel absurdly privileged.

The cereal company is also handing out T-shirts to anyone who brings in an empty box of Corn Pops. Apparently if I had watched YTV or checked out its Web site, I would have known this. I get one anyway. The tee is white, with a small PsykoBlast logo on the front, and a bigger Corn Pops Rocks logo on the back. It’s not bad, so I’m not too surprised when I see tweens pulling them over their heads.

I also see kids with EnergyFM tees, and when I ask a young boy if it was a freebie, he nods enthusiastically and says it’s ‘pretty cool.’ Later, I head out to the Energy tent and find out there aren’t any more. They have also been cleaned out of freezies and Lipton Brisk Ice Teas, although they still have a smattering of ranch flavour Corn Nuts left.

Back inside, there are only two other companies besides Kellogg: Bell Mobility and Youth Employment Services. All three stands consist of rickety tables, and I can’t help but wonder if they couldn’t make their environments more enticing by creating colourful booths and adding interactive games. They all have a draw to move several lucky fans to the front row, with Bell Mobility actually paging winners to notify them.

At Youth Employment Services, I pick up a bus pass holder. There is literature on how to get a job, and I’m not sure that’s so thrilling for the kiddies. Nonetheless, parents in attendance may be eager to teach their children some responsibility, so it makes some sense. They are also handing out red balloons and I see some of them volleyed around during the concert.

At the desk a young guy nibbles on a huge lollipop. It is an electric-blue colour and says ‘Wan2 Cha@?’ with a Bell Mobility logo. When I head to the Bell Mobility stand, a woman tells me the suckers promote the company’s new two-way text messaging system. They have run out, she says, but I can check back at intermission because they expect a new delivery. When I do return, there are only three left, and one tween is snatching up two. Another girl is in my way, and I have the urge to brush her aside, but I remind myself that I’m a professional journalist. Finally, the young woman I was originally chatting with hands me the last one. I walk away victorious.

After a long night, my overriding impression is that kids scramble for freebies at concerts, especially little girls who arrive already hyped to catch a glimpse of their favourite band cuties. So how come more marketers aren’t on the scene?