FOCUS: YOUTH MARKETING - Dipping into the fountain of youth - Feel out of touch with the young people of today? PR specialists are tapping into the 1990s phenomenon that is Girl Power and can put client brands centre stage at festivals

’Most agencies think it’s okay to trawl through Soho and offer anyone with a goatee beard a job as head of marketing,’ says Robert Phillips, managing director of Jackie Cooper PR.

’Most agencies think it’s okay to trawl through Soho and offer

anyone with a goatee beard a job as head of marketing,’ says Robert

Phillips, managing director of Jackie Cooper PR.

He is cynical about the new wave of specialist youth PR agencies that

have appeared in recent years. ’Four to five years ago everyone decided

that they needed youth marketing - it became a buzz word. Partly out of

avarice, partly out of a desire for credibility, larger agencies in

particular felt they ought to have a dedicated youth marketing


’We argue that the youth market is just another strata of consumers.

If you are expert in consumer brand marketing, that expertise has to be

targeted towards the youth market in much the same way as it would

towards the grey market, or the male or female markets.’

But cynicism about exploiting the youth market did not prevent two major

PR players from launching their own specialist youth divisions this


In January, Scope Ketchum decided to market the expertise that it had

gained from handling youth-oriented accounts such as Carlsberg by

establishing a specialist youth drinks and lifestyle practice group

within the agency.

And this week Harrison Cowley, the UK’s largest independent PR network,

announced it was launching Youth Works - a youth PR initiative headed by

23-year-old Nina Wheeler - which is starting off in the Manchester

branch and is to be rolled out across the UK.

Both agencies believe that having a specialist youth division has been

vital in attracting new business. Harrison Cowley’s Youth Works has

already signed its first client, the Manchester Giants basketball team.

Managing director Denise Mullen says: ’Being able to offer a dedicated

youth team was key to winning the account.’

Within three months Scope Ketchum’s youth division has won a major chunk

of the Warner Home Video new releases account as well as project work

supporting the Carlsberg Concert ’97. Chris Wood, who heads up the new

division, admits: ’A year ago we wouldn’t have got the business.’

But these successes reveal the widely differing approaches to agency

management in a sector which many perceive as make or break.

Mike Mathieson, director of youth specialist FFI, explains: ’The youth

market is desperately important - this is the place where brands build

credibility and if they can achieve this, they’re on to a winner.’

If the stakes are high, so are the rewards. Julian Henry, Lynne Franks’

deputy managing director, believes PR agencies are better placed than

advertisers to exploit the new trends in the youth market. ’PR

practitioners have good consumer contacts, we talk to journalists the

whole time, we’re in tune with the tabloids. Advertising agencies are

arguably more remote.’

The origins of companies in this sector is the key to understanding how

they structure and position themselves. There is a clear divide between

agencies such as FFI, Red Rooster and Slam which see themselves as youth

specialists, and companies such as Jackie Cooper PR which see youth

marketing as just one aspect of the work they do.

In a sector where synergy with music is key, it is no surprise that two

of the youth specialists - Red Rooster and FFI - have their roots in


FFI started as a company specialising in record promotions until

Mathieson spotted an opportunity to extend the techniques for plugging

records to promoting youth brands. Red Rooster’s youth marketing

expertise springs from director Tanya Lake’s activities as a DJ.

Mathieson believes that this involvement with music has helped the

agency’s credibility. ’Our music heritage means that we really know the

youth market.

We know the clubs, the bands, the lifestyle and the outlook.’

By comparison, youth agency Slam - which does work for the UK Club Guide

and for 1970s club brand Starsky and Hutch - arguably has its roots in

more conventional PR activity.

Director Tim Lewis explains: ’It started as the young son of Charles

Barker - I wangled my way in to see the board and convinced them of the

long-term business benefits.’ He denies that he was handed an ’instant’

youth PR agency.

’A lot of agencies have done a copycat thing, set up an agency, thrown

staff at it and everyone has to wear Levi’s - it’s a bit Mickey


In the case of Slam there was just me and two other people I’d roped in

to help start up.’

Agencies which have chosen not to set up separate youth PR companies

consider youth marketing as an intrinsic part of the work they do. Lynne

Franks PR has accounts such as Gap and Clearasil and also handles

project work for the Spice Girls. ’Our interest in youth is right across

the board and affects everything we do,’ says Henry.

Despite the different ways agencies in this sector structure and

position themselves, there is consensus on the balance of skills

required with account handling teams. According to Jackie Cooper’s

Phillips: ’People who are particularly skilled at running youth

campaigns are those who combine PR expertise with recent experience of

living youth culture.’

Scope Ketchum’s Wood agrees: ’It’s no good knowing Noel Gallagher’s

inside leg measurement if you can’t deliver the target number of press


A key problem is finding staff who combine business experience with

understanding of the sector. Red Rooster’s Lake believes that this comes

as a result of the way the PR industry promotes itself.

’It’s hard to find hip, young people in PR as the industry has a poor

image within this market - it can come across as stuffy and


A common solution is to use work placements or graduates to fill junior

positions. Slam favours work placement as a means of keeping in touch

with trends in the younger half of the market. ’If you’re targeting

17-year-olds you need the advice of someone in that marketplace,’ says


With students regarded as a key influence within the youth market, it is

no surprise that graduates, especially those with experience of running

promotions and booking bands, are also in demand.

There are differing views on whether junior staff should interface with

clients. Lewis thinks they should. ’I say to clients ’here’s the sort of

person you are targeting and this is what they think of the


If clients ignore the opinions of their core market, it can be


Mathieson does things differently: ’We have a couple of more experienced

people dedicated to client services who are happy to wear a suit and

liaise with the client.’

At more senior levels, agencies agree that business experience, although

not necessarily within PR, is essential. ’It’s people who can show

they’ve got the skills that you need,’ says Lewis, ’not necessarily PR

professionals, but people with a business head.’

Three of FFI’s staff were recruited directly from the music


’They’ve either had PR jobs or worked in promotions departments of music

companies,’ says Mathieson. ’They have great media contacts and can

easily move across.’

In shaping an agency or building a team, the client’s view is key.

Planet 24 marketing director Anita Hamilton has just awarded The Big

Breakfast account to Brilliant! PR. In her view, brand managers want

teams which are ’leading edge, but which also know about strategy.’ She

sees the trend toward youth specialism continuing.

’Clients want to know that youth PR teams are ’now’ and who understand

their audience and can talk their language.’

Sugar and spice: Tapping into the potency of Girl Power

What have the Spice Girls, Zoe Ball and Denise van Outen all got in

common? The answer is Girl Power, a new brand of super cool confidence

currently sweeping the teenage market.

A recent Drapers Record report on the teenage clothing market shows that

by 2006 there will be an additional 400,000 girls aged between ten and

19 in the UK. The same report reveals that teenage girls spend almost as

much on clothes as adult women. These hard economic facts underline what

is being hailed as a major cultural phenomenon.

Ray Cooper is joint managing director of Virgin Records, the label which

produces the Spice Girls - widely credited with giving voice to this


’Girl Power is a statement of belief and passion by the Spice Girls.

Over the last 12 months it has proved to be a highly potent form of

music and lifestyle both for a younger demographic and for the

population at large,’ he says.

’With a few exceptions, PR agencies and marketing people have been slow

to catch on to Girl Power,’ says J17 editor Sam Baker. ’It’s

comparatively easy to reach this market - the teen press is

all-encompassing and many of us are extremely close to our readers.’

But before eager PR executives rush to the fax, Baker warns: ’There is

no simple definition of Girl Power. It’s essentially teenage girls’

version of feminism which means a wide variety of teenage girls feeling

braver about what they want.’ ’This group is incredibly critical about

anything which they feel misses the boat or which isn’t original,’ she


Anita Hamilton is marketing director of Planet 24 , the company which

produces the Big Breakfast. In her view agencies wanting to get the most

out of Girl Power have to develop the right approach.

’This is the most media literate generation ever. In order to have any

impact companies have to adopt a niche approach and research who to talk

to and how to talk to them.’

For agencies which get it right the rewards are potentially high. ’This

audience doesn’t mind being marketed to,’ says Lynne Franks deputy

managing director Julian Henry. He believes Girl Power will prompt a

step-change in the way agencies approach their work.

’Traditionally PR has been about below-the-line activity and

communicating indirect messages. What Girl Power says is ’we know what

you’re doing.

Be up front’. It’s important that PR agencies take this on board.’

Sponsorship: How to figure big on the festival scene

Glastonbury aside, marketers who think music festivals are all about mud

may be missing out. This summer over a million people whose average age

is 16 to 24 will visit music festivals. Those attending events such as

Phoenix or Reading will be a captive audience for up to four days.

’When it comes to brand penetration the youth market is highly elusive,’

says FFI director Mike Mathieson. ’Music festivals offer an opportunity

to influence this sector within its own environment.’

FFI organises PR and sponsorship acquisition for the Mean Fiddler, the

group responsible for 75 per cent of the UK’s outdoor music


While keen to attract new sponsors FFI operates a strict vetting


’We act as credibility police,’ says Mathieson. ’We try to educate

people that event sponsorship is not a question of hanging a banner and

thinking ’yeah - we’re at a music festival’. To be noticed sponsors need

to integrate with the event.’

Pager brand Vodazap, for example, launched onto the youth market at the

Big Love festival last year, integrating with the audience through a

message tower which sent messages round the site.

But often the most credible activities are those which build on

synergies between products and music.

At the Phoenix festival computer giant Sega wanted to sponsor an area

where people could play computer games. Mathieson explains: ’A key

feature of Phoenix is its two dance tents. Research has shown that the

sort of people who enjoy dancing also enjoy computer games. We placed

the Sega Saturn tent between the two dance tents, linking it to each by

a tunnel.

People came across it as if by chance and were impressed.’ Another

example of credible sponsorship activity is when brands use festivals to

extend advertising campaigns. A recent Bud Ice promotion at the Tribal

Gathering built on its Antarctica ad campaign which features ants

carrying a bottle to an anthill. The company built a Bud Ice Chill Out

Station, a giant tent with snowboard simulators, white foam seating, a

bar, computer stations and models of ants climbing mountains.

One barrier to festival sponsorship activities is cost. Participation

fees can range from pounds 15,000 for low level sponsorship to pounds

300,000 for title sponsorship. In the case of FFI, the package would

include consultancy on possible sponsorship events but it does not allow

for production costs.

But Mathieson maintains that sponsors still get value for their


’In addition to exposure to their target markets, there is usually

massive media coverage both pre and post-event. At Phoenix there were

over 500 journalists,’ he said.

Perfect PR people: New Modernists to Cool Britannias

Latest data from the youth market tracking study ROAR (Right of

Admission Reserved) has identified the three personality groups most

likely to seek jobs in PR. A sample of 1,018 15- 24-year-olds reveals

that New Modernists, Cool Britannias and Corporate Clubbers are the

groups best suited to a PR career. The largest of these groups comprises

New Modernists of which 23 per cent want a career in this area. Next

come Cool Britannias at 14per cent, followed by Corporate Clubbers at 12

per cent.

Fashionable, creative and bright, New Modernists are jaded clubbers who

have moved on to different cultural pursuits. Good director potential

for larger agencies - 58 per cent view themselves as potential leaders -

New Modernists would instil confidence in clients and bring a touch of

individualism to their work. Likely to resent ’corporate inteference’,

New Modernists may ultimately work better in a smaller agency or by

directing an autonomous in-house team.

Agencies with fashion and music accounts may well be seeking a Corporate

Clubber. Predominantly female, Corporate Clubbers are night animals

whose main interests are clubbing, music and fashion. While highly

ambitious - 100 per cent agreed with the statement ’I want to do well in

my career’ - this group dislikes early starts and are best suited to

agencies and clients with a relaxed culture.

Sharp, sussed and often the first to discover new trends, Cool

Britannias would make good executives and account managers. Members of

this group are less likely to switch jobs and, unlike New Modernists,

will not be troubled by a rigid corporate culture. They are less likely

to be motivated by money than the previous two groups and Cool

Britannias pride themselves on being on top of the job.

Graham Smith, managing director of the Twelve Consultancy which provides

PR support for ROAR, believes that these results provide employers with

a fascinating insight. ’It’s clear that different personality profiles

are better suited to certain types of PR careers than others.’

Guardian Newspapers is one of the six media owners which commissioned

ROAR. Alison Hall, head of research and planning, says: ’The ROAR

clusters provide an accurate picture of today’s youth market. Young

people seeking a job in this sector are bound to believe they are

bright, ambitious and creative. These results provide a deeper analysis

of their motivations and can help recruiters to focus their minds when

considering the type of person they want.’

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