Reaching tween girls in Quebec

They live for French pop stars, writes Indigo's Nathalie Rivard, but they love Tom Welling, too. What makes these kids tick?

When it comes to targeting tween girls, marketers have come a long way. However, most strategies are developed to reach Canadian tween girls at large, so they often miss their target in Quebec. The fact is that tween girls in Quebec are different, and they have a different approach to fashion, music and media.

According to Statistics Canada Quebec tween girls eight to 14 years old represent a market of about 323,393, most of them francophones. As soon as you get out of Montreal and certain small towns in the Eastern Townships, the population is generally 100% francophone.

Advertisers take that market seriously and it’s interesting to see that the province can sustain four French-Canadian magazines specifically targeting tween and teen girls, including Filles d’aujourd’hui, Full Filles, Cool, and Elle Girl Quebec. These magazines are probably the best way for advertisers to target tween girls as, like tweens anywhere, they just love magazines.

For the record, all four of the above magazines target girls 13 and over, so advertisers have carte blanche, despite Quebec’s Consumer Protection Act which prohibits advertising aimed at kids under 13.

That said, like many magazines on the rack, these magazines appeal to a much younger audience than you would expect. In this case, readers are eight to 14 years old, maximum. Advertisers include beauty products (make-up, cleansers, creams, shampoos, tampons and perfume), TV programs and stations, government programs (student jobs, anti-smoking and responsible sex ads), fashion (clothing, accessories and underwear), music, books and snacks.

Parents check the content of these magazines rigorously, and have been more watchful since an incident a few years ago when Adorable magazine published an article showing girls how to perform oral sex on their boyfriends. (Adorable has since moved to an older skew.) Parents will be checking the content of advertising, too.

Quebec tween girls have a strong cultural background where pop icons and cultural references are different.

For example, when Britney Spears is hot, she’s hot in Quebec too, but most of the pop icons are francophones, including Lorie, MixMania and Marie-Pier Perrault. It’s a good idea to tie in your product to a spokesperson, but before you do so, make sure you talk to someone who really knows that market to find the best match for your product.

The same applies to television. When girls watch Charmed, Buffy, Roswell or Smallville (Quebec tween girls are quite fond of Tom Welling), it is mostly in the dubbed version. The most popular shows with this audience are definitely Quebec-made programs like Phenomia, Star Académie (not to be confused with the new Web and cable-based Pornstar Académie), La Fureur, Banzai, Ram Dam and Réal-IT. The most popular TV network for tween girls is VRAK TV, the nearest equivalent to YTV you will find in Quebec. TVA is the second choice, mainly because of Star Académie and Star Académie Auditions.

Advertising that ostensibly targets families viewing these programs is considered reasonable within the bounds of the Consumer Protection Act.

Girls love the reality shows such as MixMania, Star Académie and Phenomia because deep down they all dream of becoming famous. What distinguishes the Quebec reality shows from the anglophone versions, apart from the language, of course, is that they come with a plus value for the viewer: real educational content. Girls who watch them learn how to sing, dance, perform in front of an audience and in the case of Phenomia, how to create a rock opera.

MixMania and Phenomia are, I think, the best example of how to appeal to tweens. Both shows cast youth under 17 years old. Both were music oriented. Both were showing youth in winning situations. Tween girls are in need of good role models and I think that the last two shows really proved to them that, with a bit of talent, you could achieve big things. The interesting thing in Phenomia was that it was not a competition – everybody who made it there was a winner and they all worked together as a team to create an opera that rocks!

Nathalie Rivard is president of Montreal-based youth market consultancy Indigo Communication. She can be reached at indigocom@bellnet.ca.