Tuesday morning at ad:tech Chicago, big brands like YouTube and Yahoo debated the likelihood that the Holy Grail, sought after by everyone from Indiana Jones to Tom Hanks, is (and perhaps always has been) in the unlikely hands of advertisers.
With every new medium comes a wave of schizophrenic behavior in which old media titans express fear, reproach and occasionally cavil at a "threat" that has seen no equal in history.
The movie industry did this with the arrival of VHS, and we do it today with online video - not without merit. Around a narrow corner lives the thinly-veiled concern that we might be kissing our cash cow, network TV, good-bye (and good luck), in favor of a mutable and virtually immeasurable entity: the internet.
After attending the Ypulse conference in San Francisco earlier this week, we've come to realize a few things about teens, tweens and the marketers who want them in their back pocket. Sometimes it seems like today's marketers are falling into the same potholes our predecessors did: trying to deconstruct cool, relying too heavily on surveys, and forgetting that before we're marketers, we're consumers. We've been consumers all our lives. That experience is our biggest trump card.
Another thing we don't realize is that generations of kids, teens and adults also fall for the same potholes their predecessors did. What we need to remember is, no matter what age we are, we all suffer from a bit of age elitism.
I'm pretty fascinated by this campaign YouthNoise has been conducting alongside Virgin, which uses mobile in ways that are creative, considering its challenges.
To raise awareness about teen homelessness, the company put together a 46-part novella via text message. Every day an opt-in teen received a couple of texts a day that continued the story. And at the end of the campaign, the more emotionally involved got to make contributions to the ending.
Considering the subject matter, the novella was popular, but sort of a buzzkill. In retrospect, Ginger Thomson of YouthNoise said she wouldn't conduct that same campaign again with such a sad story.
Can you imagine throwing open a magazine full of bummed-out models that seem to hate life? Oh wait, most of them already look like that.
A Tuesday YPulse session dubbed Totally Wired: Life seemed unable to decide whether it was dissecting Gen Y or seeking a restraining order from it. I managed to extract the following interesting points from the discussion:
* Every kid from middle school on down never knew a world without internet access
* Every kid from college on down never knew a world without video computing
The moderator noted, "[Technology for them] is natural, it's part of their DNA."
I don't know about all that, but it was a very poetic statement.
The Totally Wired "New School" consists of web 2.0 movers and shakers, many of which aren't much older than me. (Think Zuckerberg - except he's not here.) Check out the details here, under "The New School."
Generally speaking, they make me ass-bitingly jealous. But onto the meat of things:
David Birnbaum of Takkle says the media partnerships your wee company develops are critical to its future. Don't just hunt down a big name to piggyback; you have to consider whether your brands are a logical fit.
To illustrate, he points to his company's relationship with Sports Illustrated, the magazine you read when you're into sports but too young to buy Raider Girl calendars yet.
Takkle videos are highlighted within the magazine. Sports Illustrated ain't small-time, but that's beside the point: it shoots for the same demographic as Takkle, with the same strong sense of team-spiritedness and values. This kind of logical pairing is way more effective than just stapling yourself to a big-name brand and hoping to ride the wave.
A lunchtime discussion about mobile marketing at the YPulse Mashup conference provided an ambitious inside glance on the mobile of today (think early AOL) and the mobile of tomorrow (kiss your laptop good-bye).
One Microsoft representative in particular betrayed an odd preoccupation with size, foretelling the death of the laptop "as we know it" in favor of ever-more-sophisticated smartphones that double as sync-able remotes for big screen TV/computers.
(Think, revival of Microsoft Media Center - talk about beating a dead horse.)
Deeply entrenched in the YPulse conference and absorbing the buzz in the air, I feel convicted with the first realization I made the moment I walked through the boughie-ass doors of Hotel Nikko: I'm not dressed properly.
In my G-Star jeans, Boss heels and button-down shirt, I'm wearing the clothes that sent a very specific message when I was in college: Look at me, assholes, I'm business-friendly.
The outfit sends a different message out of college. It says, I am a perpetually business-casual espresso-sucking young professional, and you have Google to thank for the proliferation of my kind.
Well and good for dealing head-to-head with other marketers. But when dealing with teens? Like the suited out-of-touchers, I feel like I should be carrying a clipboard while a tweenie-bopper politely relates every response he or she thinks I want to hear.
Anastasia Goodstein is conducting the welcome for the YPulse Mashup as I sit here. She's got this tone that reminds me a lot of the teens in the Bay Area I grew up with.
I should start by explaining the reason the Mashup exists. The idea behind this conference is to mash up all shades of people that share a common interest - a sincere love of teen-kind, according to Madame Goodstein.
These include marketers, youth pastors and other unlikely cocktail ingredients. Already I've met widget builders, a number of journalists (both digital and traditional), video game pushers, consultants, manga-lovers (that was a fun conversation), and even a woman whose company is a major lifestyle and team-building brand for cheerleaders.
Another interesting thing about the conference is that presenters aren't allowed to bring their own PowerPoint presentations, meaning we're saved from the polite shuffle to often seen at so many other conferences - rhetorical jibjab that thinly veils a boring, generally unhelpful product pitch.
We're behind on this a bit but New York's Night Agency has put together a 21st century version of a 1960's flower power, cross country tour for Lucky Brand Jeans complete with tricked out 1949 Flxble bus. The bus, which recently made its way across the country from LA, is now in New York City and will be parked in front of the Lucky Brands store at Broadway between Prince and Spring around 4PM where The Hysterics will perform if you want to check it out.
The bus will then set out to traverse the country again making stops at events such as Lollapalooza, Voodoo Music, 10,000 Lakes, Austin City limits and others throughout the summer and fall.
The uniquely strong, yet skittishly odd powers of the short, plaid, pleated skirt have been put to use by Coors Light Canada and Maxim for the Coors Light Maxim Golf Experience, an event which promises "the ultimate threesome." Now, before your minds race to that particularly nasty place, we're talking about golf threesomes here not that other fantasy that visits the male mind every, oh, two minutes.
Thanks a lot Coors Light. Now every time we approach the tee, we'll be wishing the three people standing alongside were actually Coors Light Maxim Golf Experience girl wearing the uniquely powerful short, plaid, pleated skirt. That or nasty imagery of our golf buddies in the get up. Neither of which will help our golf game very much.