This premise is not a future big-screen, cross-licensing, tie-in deal concept; it’s an ongoing Star Wars/Pokémon/Furby toy battle raging on my second floor landing.
However, many dream teams of popular characters are coming. Pokémon Crazy Bones or Gremlin Furbys are the kind of hybrids that you can count on for blue-chip kid-grabbing action. It seems that with any demo from tween on down, figuring out what has a good shot at nabbing their attention follows a fairly logical formula. With kids, picking up a hot title-like Warner Bros. nabbing film rights to the Harry Potter books-or adding a popular sport license to a popular animated character, will lead to an awareness increase. However, it is widely believed that this simple formula becomes complex when you try to transpose it to teens.
There are a lot of different takes on what teens will glom onto. Film or TV product labeled ‘teen’ seems to contain a wide range of interpretations-from series that appeal to the under-12s (therefore negating teen appeal), to shows that seem more adult-soapy than teen-specific. Product engineered to garner a teen audience contains characters their age, the drama formula contains aspirational settings, and attitude is also a core element on the comedy side. About the only area of consensus is that Edgy is Good.
Does that differ from a kid or tween formula? A main point of departure seems to be on how teens should be attracted to product. That brings up another area of consensus: teens will not tolerate being overtly led; they must ‘discover’ innate coolness themselves.
On the licensing front, pundits are talking about lifestyle brands rather than character paraphernalia as the teen merchandise route. This leads to the tie-in trend (via brands such as YM) which links to fashion and music, and brings up the trait teens are most notorious for: fickleness.
Are they really exponentially more fickle than any other age group out there? Spice Girls didn’t last six months in our `hood among the six to seven set. Perhaps teens just have more options available-from music or fashion to media choices-and are cruising through them at a clip that seems accelerated to those outside the loop. This issue TeenScreen explores how some companies are making the right teen connections, from Hilfiger’s celeb and next-big-thing music campaign to Mainframe’s subversive CGI series plans. For further insight into the teen psyche, check out The Campaign Spotlight on page 23, part of our all-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-Dreamcast editorial triumvirate.
Responding to the increased interest and activity in the teen zone, TeenScreen is expanding. In September, it launches as a stand-alone quarterly magazine, with dedicated coverage of teen trends, programming, music, apparel, new media, licensing, marketing and retail scenes.
In other KidScreen news, we have new faces and features this issue. The digital kids scene is now being covered by Kate Barker, who has come aboard as copy chief and will helm the new media section. The licensing and merchandising beat is now the domain of Allison Dunfield, who joins us from a daily news reporting gig and has a penchant for QSR premiums. Also new this issue is I Want That!, a regular column in the Retail section that explores the art and science of an upcoming in-store promotion.