The Mad Science Group, a Montreal-based company specializing in bringing educational science demonstrations to schools across North America, says it has found the right mix of education and marketing to help advertisers break into schools.
This month, a new demonstration on UV protection, developed in conjunction with France-based L’Oréal, launches at 100 elementary schools across Canada. If it’s a success, the program will spread down to Mad Science’s 100 franchisees Stateside, where the program could reach millions of kids ages five to 12. L’Oréal, which produces an upmarket line of sun block called Ombrelle For Kids, is paying Mad Science about US$270 per school to develop and implement the program. In return, the sun block will be used in the demonstrations, and the brand will appear on signage and take-home materials. ‘We’ve basically figured out a completely new distribution channel to reach kids in a very focused, uncluttered environment,’ says Mad Science president Ariel Shlien. ‘The implications of this thing are huge. We have the potential of accessing 30 million children.’
Shlien says that both cash-strapped schools and L’Oréal win, with the schools getting a free demonstration developed by scientists and educators, and L’Oréal reaching kids in an innovative way. After the sponsored run is over, L’Oréal’s American office has the option of expanding its sponsorship to include the U.S. market. If not, Shlien says the demonstration will still tour the U.S., either in conjunction with other sponsored shows or at cost to the schools.
Shlien, while stressing that ‘kids are much more open to beginning a process for loyalty and beginning a recognition of branding,’ is also aware that the brand presence has to be low-key. He says the product will not be pitched directly to kids in any way, and teachers will be asked to fill out questionnaires expressing their feelings on sponsored educational presentations.
Ombrelle’s Canadian brand manager, Gilbert Godin, says the program works well for the product because increasing awareness of UV dangers tends to drive consumers to his brand, even without a direct pitch. He notes that it has been just this kind of increased awareness that has helped to reposition the high-SPF sun block from a niche item used only by sun-sensitive people to a mainstream brand.