Three members of Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kid Connection children’s marketing unit have left the organization to start Geppetto Group, a New York-based youth marketing consulting and creative agency under the umbrella of the WPP Group.
Julie Halpin, CEO of Geppetto, says her departure, along with that of colleagues Christopher McKee and Rachel Geller, was amicable. She says the start-up of the new agency will give her and her team a chance to branch out and develop a greater range of kid-targeted marketing services.
‘Kid Connection was a great experience, but this is an opportunity to operate outside of the confines of a big agency,’ says Halpin, who held the position of senior vice president and general manager at Kid Connection. McKee was executive vice president and executive creative director, and Geller was worldwide director for strategic planning.
Meanwhile, Saatchi & Saatchi has returned Anne Adriance, one of Kid Connection’s original founders, to the helm as general manager of the kids specialist unit. She retains her title of executive vice president and director of creative brand development at Saatchi & Saatchi.
McKee’s position has been taken over by a committee of creative people who will divide their attention between children’s cereals and fruit snacks and other selected products.
‘I’m delighted to be back in an area of the business that I love,’ says Adriance, who recently rejoined Saatchi & Saatchi after heading up domestic licensing and merchandising functions at Turner Home Entertainment.
Although stressing that it is too early to determine exactly what changes she might institute at Kid Connection, Adriance says, ‘it’s clear that this is a good opportunity to propel Kid Connection and our focus on the kids market on to the next phase of its life.’
Describing how Geppetto plans to position itself in the marketlace, Halpin says, ‘one of the things that should really set us apart from anybody else is that we want to look at kids and teens as a mindset, not a demographic.
‘Kids are the most creative and imaginative consumers in the marketplace, so we think it’s appropriate that the advertising targeted to them be just as creative and imaginative.’
Noting that advertising aimed at children rarely gets much attention in adult-oriented media circles, Halpin adds, ‘we have a mission to get kid advertising the respect it deserves.’
Halpin says Geppetto has already picked up project assignments from the American Heart Association, which wants to develop a program to teach kids about ‘heart healthy’ behavior, and Cartoon Network, which has hired the agency to help it gain a better understanding of what it is about cartoons that appeals to children.
Over the years, Kid Connection clients have included such names as Betty Crocker, Burger King, General Mills, Kenner, Parker Brothers and Nabisco.