As the retail market starts to loosen up a bit and toy marketing budgets get slightly plumper, the timing may be perfect for Steve Rotter’s decision to go back to his kids marketing roots. The former chairman of rotterkantor (which started out as a kids agency and gradually expanded to serve all kinds of clients) has branched out on his own to open a new full-service youth marketing agency called the Rotter Group, with offices in New York and L.A.
But Rotter’s reasons for specializing are driven more by market philosophy than market conditions. ‘Our parents didn’t care what we thought was cool, but now parents want to know what their kids think about everything. So while it used to be that kids controlled toy and cereal purchases and very little else, they are now the gatekeepers for almost everything their parents buy, whether it’s clothing, cars, stereos or computers. I’m a big believer that this is a vital niche in the whole marketing process.’
Although Rotter is hanging onto several key kids clients from the rotterkantor portfolio – including Playmates Toys (master toy licensee for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Wham-O (Frisbee, Slip ‘n Slide) – he’s also looking for a limited number of new ones that understand the importance of marketing to kids and teens. He sees a lot of opportunity in the computer and beverage sectors, which he says have tended to ignore the youth demo in favor of targeting their campaigns at young adults and Gen Xers over the last few years.
The Rotter Group is a pretty lean team of 12, with varied expertise in PR, promotions, package design and Internet marketing in addition to commercial production. ‘When one of my clients has a new product or even a concept that’s been submitted by an inventor, we go in and help them take it to the place where it needs advertising and promotion,’ says Rotter. ‘Our services are great for companies that don’t want to separate each activity.’
The Rotter Group has hit the ground running since hanging its new shingle, having just finished shooting seven commercials that will hit airwaves in Q1 and Q2 – including a couple for Playmates’ Ninja Turtles and Disney Princesses licensed products and a new set of Slip ‘n Slide spots for Wham-O.