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Marketing to the Always-On Teen

Debra Aho Williamson
Marketing to the Always-On Teen Debra Aho Williamson
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One of the best ways to reach the elusive teen audience is online or via mobile phone. Marketers surveyed by the Promotion Marketing Association and CMO Council ranked teens and college students as the most receptive of all demographic groups to digital promotions.



But things get more complicated because many of the digital environments teens operate in -- instant messaging, text messaging, blogging -- require a more creative approach to advertising messages.


Additionally, there is the issue of teen multi-tasking. More research is necessary to understand the way multi-tasking impacts teens' receptivity to marketing messages. Bigger, louder, faster may not be the best answer to getting through.


Just as teens are on the vanguard of new technologies, marketers must also be prepared to extend in new directions to tap teen interest. Here are some emerging online/mobile marketing opportunities.


Broadband Video

Taking advantage of rising use of broadband, websites are upping their broadband offerings aimed at teens. Viacom's Nickelodeon launched TurboNick, featuring clips and full-length television episodes along with TV-like ads. Eventually, kids will be able to send videos to friends, rate their favorite videos, and download content. Sister channel MTV offers MTV Overdrive with similar intentions.



Advertisers including Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, Gap and Microsoft have ponied up to reach teens in this new venue. Since many of the ads cannot be skipped, the audience is more easily guaranteed. However, there's a danger that kids will click away before the content loads if the ad doesn't appeal to them.


Though real-time video and audio have improved dramatically, the uncertainties of broadband connections mean glitches and pauses and the occasional "buffering" advisory, such as occurred on MTV Overdrive on the day after MTV's Video Music Awards in August 2005. All of this gives restless teens a chance to turn away to something else.


Immersive Environments

There's a good reason Viacom forked over an estimated $160 million for Neopets, the immersive game where kids create and take care of virtual pets. Actually, 25 million reasons. The site has attracted a huge audience of dedicated users and has grown to become one of the "stickiest" kids sites online. Viacom sees it as a key part of its growing Internet strategy.


Neopets is probably the best known of a group of sites that allow people to interact in a virtual world. Its central "city" of Neopia is teeming with storefronts just aching for a brand name, while the games area offers dozens of games that, with a few tweaks, could easily carry brand names. A few willing marketers have signed on, including McDonald's, Reebok and, oddly, Disney (perhaps in a deal that predates the Viacom acquisition).


Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, meanwhile, has found its way to Habbo Hotel, a Finnish-originated site with versions in 16 countries. Habbo received four million unique visitors across all its properties in June 2005, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.


Immersive games seem a perfect antidote to the frenetic, fragmented lives of teens, but marketer-sponsored games must be labeled as advertising, especially for the youngest set of online users. And potential advertisers need to consider that an immersive game environment is not static: There are always new worlds to discover and new people (or pets) to interact with. An advertiser's role in such games should not be static, either.


Mobile Marketing

The mobile marketing opportunity has been in the "nascent" phase for several years, but it's gradually picking up steam.


According to a 2004 study by Ball State University, 17 percent of teens surveyed said they have received an ad on their mobile phone. Similarly, Enpocket found in a 2005 study that 16 percent of young adults ages 18-24 have seen an advertising message on their mobile phone.


Some companies, such as record label EMI Group for the band Coldplay, are testing ads that beam out to mobile phone users in Heathrow Airport. The ads, triggered by Bluetooth technology, feature video clips and interviews with the musicians, according to an August 2005 article in The Wall Street Journal.


Texting campaigns are picking up steam as well. Frito-Lay's Doritos featured a text component in its teen-oriented "If Not Now When" campaign. Kellogg in 2004 launched a long-running text messaging campaign that featured a call to action on boxes of Corn Pops and other cereals.


So far, the efforts have been mostly opt-in, given that most people consider mobile phones personal and private. However, the teen audience may be more receptive than others to messaging that doesn't require them to opt in. This is a group, after all, that is used to being interrupted by phone calls, instant messages and text messages.


Instant Messaging

Like text messaging, instant messaging can be highly personal. But so far, indications are that teens are ripe for IM marketing campaigns.


To accompany Procter & Gamble's launch of Secret Sparkle, a body spray and antiperspirant line aimed at teen girls, the company teamed with AOL to create an IM campaign. So far, according to an August 2005 report in Forbes, girls have downloaded Sparkle-themed buddy icons more than 55,000 times. In addition, a reported one million teens have interacted with a Secret Sparkle "chat bot," sending a whopping 75 million IMs to the bot.


AOL in August 2005 revamped its instant messaging platform to offer users easier connections to other AOL services, such as blogging tools, mobile applications and more. It recognizes that teens have myriad communications tools at their disposal and that the easier it is to access them at any given moment, the more they are likely to use them.


Movie company Focus Features took a different tack for its fall 2005 release Cry Wolf, launching a multi-player game that pits AOL IM users against each other to find the wolves in sheep's clothing.


Another strategy, used by marketers ranging from Campbell Soup to Pepsi to Carl's Jr., is to offer downloads that change the look and feel of the IM application (something Yahoo! Messenger calls "IMVironments").


Tactics like these appeal to teens' quickly changing interests and their desire to be on top of what's hot and what's not on a given day. They also give teens the ability to personalize their media, something that is very important to them.


Debra Aho Williamson is a senior analyst at eMarketer.  This article is drawn from her new report, "Kids and Teens: Blurring the Line between Online and Offline."

I have heard some premium publisher folks state concerns that there could be issues with real-time bidding on display inventory due to asymmetric bidding and low bid density. Consider the following example that illustrates how low bid density (leading to asymmetric bids) could be a problem in the future as more impressions become available for real-time bidding. I'll make it unrealistically simple to illustrate the issue:


An impression shows up for bid. It has the following attributes:



  1. Male

  2. 34 years old

  3. Greater than $150,000 income

  4. Chicago DMA

  5. New parent

  6. Auto shopper

  7. Jewelry shopper

  8. Health club member

  9. Impression is 300x250 pixels

  10. Site category is entertainment

Four advertisers participate in the auction:


Advertiser 1: Pampers -- knows nothing extra

Advertiser 2: Ford -- knows user owns a BMW and has been shopping for Land Rovers through proprietary data deals

Advertiser 3: Zales -- has existing customer data that shows this is an inactive customer, a high spender in past who bought an engagement ring three years ago

Advertiser 4: An independent Chicago diaper service -- knows nothing extra

The bidding follows like this:


Pampers bids $1 CPM.

Ford bids $5 CPM -- it knows it has a low likelihood of converting this profile, so it doesn't bid very high.

Zales bids $40 CPM -- it knows that this customer bought his engagement ring at Zales three years ago, and given the new parent status, he is likely to be open to buying an expensive Mother's Day present.

The Chicago diaper service bids $10 CPM based on simple CPA optimization.

Because this is a second price auction, Zales will win, but only pay $10 CPM for the impression. In this simple example, that might not seem too bad. But in reality, it should be possible for the publisher to predict that this impression, based on past bids on similar impressions, would sell for much higher than $5 CPM. So the publisher has not gotten the maximum yield it could have gotten based on the auction it had in play.


In the future, I predict that publishers will make use of yield optimization technology to fix this problem. The publisher should be setting a floor price on a per-impression basis based on its prediction of value to the advertisers in the marketplace. The publisher probably could have comfortably set a floor price that would have given it a higher yield (e.g., set the price at $12 or even $20 CPM based on historical trends for this type of impression and the current bidders in the auction). But this is a very hard technology problem to solve.


In paid search, we've seen high bid density drive very high CPMs on highly desirable keywords within the auction. And where the bid density is lower, we've frequently seen lower CPMs. Essentially, bid density refers to how many participants within an auction are bidding over the same item. In paid search, overall this hasn't been a problem -- mostly because there are "single digit" millions of commercially viable keywords, and about half a million advertisers competing over them. This leads to pretty good distribution, with some keywords getting lots of competition, and some getting very little -- and overall the average yield being very high for the search engine. It's a supply and demand problem for the most part.


But in online display advertising, there are trillions of display impressions a month with fewer than 10,000 advertisers (at least, in the world we live in today), with most dollars being spent in the U.S. coming from fewer than 3,000 advertisers. Further, the role of agencies could significantly change under this new set of mechanisms. There's no reason that an agency using a DSP couldn't withhold bids from its stable of advertisers so that only the top bid available for any advertiser for each impression would be placed. From a bid density perspective, this could be damaging without the kind of yield optimization I mentioned above and the creation of competition between multiple advertisers that normally wouldn't have competed in the past. But there are still things that could drive lower bid density and lower publisher yield.


For instance: In an extreme world, each agency holding company could have its own DSP, and each of these would offer only one bid per impression as it reviewed the available targeting parameters and determined -- based on each advertiser's business rules -- which of their campaigns would have the highest bid. In other words, each DSP could run an internal auction prior to placing a bid in the publisher-facing system. That would reduce the density of the auction on the publisher side significantly, causing the publisher to reduce yield. But it does require significant process change from how things are done today.


In the end, I think publishers would be foolish to worry too much here. It's likely that their highest value impressions are going to go way up in yield, even if they see a drop on the rest of their impressions. And at the least, those two things should make up for each other. At the best, this could drive average yield higher in online display than we've ever seen before.


Eric Picard is the advertising technology advisor to the Advertising Platform Engineering team at Microsoft.


On Twitter? Follow Picard at @ericpicard. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Brazil is an optimistic and passionate country


This sounds like a stereotype, but it's true of the national mindset -- also in countries like Mexico and Colombia -- and especially in contrast to Argentina, which looks more to Europe in socio-cultural matters. This is a real advantage for brands. The emotional component is more important and more effective in branding in Brazil, and this perfectly suits experiential marketing.


Brazilians tend to trust brands and each other


The recent economic boom has made Brazilians even more respectful of successful brands -- international and regional. At the same time, owing in part to tradition, they respect word-of-mouth marketing and are eager to take friends' advice on brands or other Brazilians' via social media. Brazil is one of the most Facebook-friendly countries in the world. And there's another crucial piece: Brazilians aren't as concerned with security and privacy issues as people in the U.S. or Europe. If they like or don't like something, they'll tell everyone, and this is unique to the whole region in general.

The value of a shared experience


Experiential marketing is predicated on more than the brand offering an experience -- the audience has to be willing to participate. This is why social/cultural events are prime opportunities for marketers. The elements of performance and the shared experience are already there. Often the experiential element is the spectator's opportunity to become an "actor," so to speak.


For example, Coca-Cola has used crowdsourcing to create its World Cup anthem, with fans submitting their own videos to audition for a spot in the final, official video. Crowdsourcing is a perfect example of the internet's ability to reach wide and aggregate eyeballs. The Coke promotion is available to fans the world over -- 3.2 billion are expected to watch some part of the World Cup -- and it encourages every fan to feel a part of the event, thanks to Coke's well known role as an official World Cup sponsor.


And while crowdsourcing is a great way to tap into passion around civic events, it's not limited to that. Even the most staid brand can leverage its own internet presence to encourage "shopper" involvement to crowdsource product suggestions via Facebook groups, polls to help choose product names or logos, etc. So as you read about experiential marketing in Brazil, don't assume the tactic won't apply to your brand. People are people after all.


Both the World Cup and the Olympics have a worldwide audience, and experts are suggesting that brands (including consumer products and sports media brands) will make heavy use of real-time digital events, such as chats with soccer players who are watching the same games as fans -- for example, Heineken's effective #sharethesofa Twitter promotion.


In fact, this tactic can be very effective around non-entertainment events. A brand that has its own marketers tweet consistently and smartly from a major trade show can show its own category importance and expertise. This results in helping potential customers feel tied to an event they were unable to attend.


Yes, experiential marketing lends itself to shared experiences, and the internet only amplifies this. But in Brazil, as in so many developing countries, there are barriers.


Obstacles to overcome


For starters, there are vast swaths of the country with a poor digital connection to the major cities and making them far from homogeneous in affluence and cultural features. This requires feet-on-the-ground expertise for brands that want to market in Brazil and Latin America in general -- even those that want to use Brazil as a platform for global messaging.


And while the creative end of marketing in Brazil has developed quickly, the executional piece often suffers from a lack of qualified vendors in production, printing, and management. Brazilian consumers are starting to ask for sophistication and consistency from their brands, both global and local.

So what are the best practices for marketers to consider?


Be nimble


Experiential marketing can't always be planned months or years in advance. Sometimes it has to be in real-time. Coca-Cola and adidas are two examples of companies with teams of marketers who monitor topics in the news, social media, and through Google search to look for timely, effective tie-ins to the World Cup.


Be prepared


There is data that suggests that a strong majority of searches done by fans watching the World Cup will be on mobile devices, which is a big change from four years ago. A recent MarketingWeek article noted that Budweiser's content development team is prepared to leverage search data quickly with content that might be sparked by the World Cup, but extend into other entertainment realms. This means it helps to have content and structures in place ahead of time for immediate distribution.


Same with Listerine, whose World Cup execution was termed a "juggernaut" by MediaPost's MarketingDaily. "We need to reach the right audience with messaging relevant to the moment and the match," said a Listerine spokesman. "By adjusting our paid media behind the social content that performs the best, we will be able to maximize our advertising dollars to deliver the strongest consumer engagement opportunities for our brand."


Be alert


Political and economic events over the past several years put big-budget, government-supported events like the World Cup and the Olympics, in a sensitive position. High-profile protests are a constant concern for marketers. An adidas marketer has noted that even well-intentioned marketing pieces can come across as ill-timed or insincere against a background of sudden controversial events.


Marina Sanchez is director of business development for Latin America at SGK.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet


"Digitally generated Brazilian national flag" image via Shutterstock.



 

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