Greg Skinner (email@example.com) is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company specializing in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the interesting kids sites raising a ruckus in cyberspace.
What do Web sites, soda and fruit beverages have to do with reaching kids through entertainment? At first glance, nothing. But take another look at these two sites, and you’ll wonder why you asked in the first place. Kids and pop go together like TVs and remote controls.
Pepsi, the purveyor of Pepsi Stuff, has a Web site, and for a group of cola makers, they’ve done an excellent job of getting their cyber-communications together.
First up, the Movies section. Splendid, because the main attractions are Spawn, the kick-ass summer flick starring the comic-book character extraordinaire, and Steel, the upcoming movie with Shaquille O’Neal. Both movies rock, and this site offers up all of the necessary details: storylines (in big nutshells), action photos and, of course, contests!
The Games area is also keenly focused on what’s bangin’. Right now, that appears to be Tomb Raider 2, a video game with an Indiana Jones-type heroine, but she’s infinitely more edgy and adventurous. Pepsi.com whets your appetite for information about the game with screen shots and much-appreciated links to other Tomb Raider Web sites. Further fun is found in previews for new games for Nintendo, Sony PlayStation and computers, with titles for Sega conspicuously absent.
This site is laced with funny little sound effects and excellent graphics. The fact that none of the content stays put for very long and that there are contests at every turn help to keep things Ziploc fresh. Every major section has great graphics and pages that look straight-up sassy.
‘What’s in the Music section?’ you ask most gleefully. A review of the new Counting Crows album and downloadable song clips. More impressive is a streaming video, and most outstanding is the fact that the site hosts live RealVideo concerts!
Sports at the Pepsi site? Absolutely. When it comes to a young demographic, sports are where it’s at. The section’s race car theme profiles Jeff Gordon (who is attached to the Pepsi Stuff program). You’ll also find nice variations on baseball (an interview with Bobby Bonilla of the Florida Marlins), basketball and golf. The format is tight, with good content, but the section is in dire need of some pictures.
The one huge detriment is the need to download a truckload of plug-ins for various software programs to make the site fully operational. None of the Steel links would work in Microsoft Internet Explorer. With a site so sharp, it’s taking a chance that people will have the patience to get all of the necessities.
So, where you’d expect the site to be stodgy and uncarbonated, it’s actually pretty slick. The payback to Pepsi is that the site enhances the propagation of Pepsi Stuff and the tight association of the brand with today’s youth-oriented cultural icons, from Shaq and Deion Sanders to Mia Hamm and Lisa Leslie.
Overall rating: nail, hammer, right on (8.5 out of 10)
Snapple is the proud owner of Liquid Connection, the place where ‘the best stuff happens on the Web.’ This is debatable, but there is some interesting stuff here, depending on how old you are.
The bottom line is that this site is excellent for young kids (under age 12), who would appreciate the site’s lucid graphics, mild-mannered content and simple flavor. There’s enough here to keep a youngster occupied for hours. A Shockwave game in which you squirt Snapple into the mouths of passersby is a blast, and one in which you locate bottles of Diet Snapple hidden in a picture is quite amusing (especially as it expounds funky phrases, like ‘at least you hit the picture,’ when you miss). But for those craving a lot of action and interaction, meaning teens, the site doesn’t cut it.
Just like the Pepsi site, Snapple has a bushels of things to give away, 11 million things in fact, including three months of free WebTV, Sony Internet terminals and even remote controls!
But unlike the Pepsi site, Snapple.com isn’t as graphically or as visually intense. Simplicity rules here, and after cruising the site of its carbonated cousin, Snapple comes across as pretty flat.
The section on Snapple’s history could be highly interesting, but it isn’t. Few pictures, plus no action equals no fun. The site needs to show the detention kid who took the lie-detector test that proves that ‘Snapple is [the] best tasting tea’ or the boy. Hey, someone won $10,000 for college by submitting a winning idea for a Snapple TV commercial to a contest! That deserves more attention.
As for the rest of the site, links take you to WebTV and Sony, and there are quirky little downloads like animated icons, fruit-flavored wallpaper and sounds for your computer (‘fruiteeeeee,’ ‘taaaasssty’).
To be skewed closer to its target demographic of teens, the site has to build more on the Snapple mythology and enhance the mystique that surrounds the brand in the real world. They’re giving away 27-inch color TVs! That is exciting! If Pepsi can rock the show with just one flavor (two, if you count cherry), then surely Snapple can do it with over 25 flavors.
Overall rating: lemon-flavored (6 out of 10)