Technology sells when you're talking teens
April 16, 1999
by Thomas Hoffman
(IDG) -- Advertisers are beginning to use Internet and other technologies to pitch products to the biggest consumer audience in America since Baby Boomers began coming of age in the 1960s.
But the trick to reaching the 60 million or so youths who make up Generation Y is more about making sure to market to them electronically in a nonintrusive way, say advertising experts. Otherwise, it's later for you, dude.
"The era of trying to sell 'whiter whites' is over," said Jamison R. Davis, creative director at Modem Media Poppe Tyson, an interactive marketing firm in Norwalk, Conn. Technology, he said, "will allow [advertisers] to create individual branding experiences at a fraction of the cost that it used to."
To make Web sites more appealing to teens, Davis suggested creating a virtual reality tour (as his firm did for Hiram Walker) or generally make Web surfing "more of an interactive experience," he said.
Case in point: BroadPoint Communications Inc., a Landover, Md.-based firm that offers free long-distance telephone services to consumers who are willing to listen to five audio advertisements before calling.
The approach is "great for [attracting] teens, given [the] time they spend talking on the phone," says Chris Jones, chairman and CEO of J. Walter Thompson, an advertising firm in New York.
But it's difficult to gauge the success of that service because it's only a few months old. And analysts aren't so sure it will appeal to cash-strapped teens. "Kids want things instantly," said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communication Network Architects in Washington. Dzubeck said the advertising-for-phone service trade-off "might be more attractive" to other price-sensitive consumers such as retirees who have the patience to sit through an ad blitz.
But even if BroadPoint's service reaches a small percentage of teens, there could be significant upside potential for advertisers who use the service. Today's teens can watch TV, surf the Web, listen to music, talk to friends on the phone and do their homework all at once. It's a capability that futurist Bob Treadway refers to as "time-stacking," or the ability to multitask while absorbing multiple stimuli.
AT&T Corp. has successfully used TV to sell Internet services to Gen Y. Last December, the telecommunications firm reintroduced a television commercial pitching its WorldNet Internet services that features two moon-eyed teen-agers who fire off e-mails to each other after a date while Patsy Cline warbles in the background. The spot helped AT&T reach 250% of its January 1999 WorldNet sales target.
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