Contest Brings Teens to in Droves

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Alloy Online Inc., New York, is using a monthly contest to attract teen-agers to its youth-oriented retail Web site. The competition generated more than 176,000 responses during April and cost the site less than $25,000.

Alloy encourages teen-age viewers to cast votes for their schools in a contest rewarding festival-like entertainment to the school that registers the most tallies.

The students are allowed to vote once per day. Alloy features an e-mail link, which lets viewers e-mail the page to five friends. This feature has been successful in generating responses because it gives students an easy way to spread word about the vote, said Joan Rosenstock, director of marketing.

More than 12,000 schools have participated so far, with North Andover Middle School in North Andover, MA, winning the April contest. Students from the school will be rewarded with a rock concert and a fashion show May 30, and the school also will receive three computers from Gateway Inc.

Alloy makes mention of the contest on its Web site and in its catalog/direct mail campaigns, which have a consumer database in the millions.

Rosenstock said the low-budget nature of the promotions for the contest made economic sense and worked well with teens because they are often suspicious of big advertising. She added that the viral marketing campaign has tapped the peer-conscious mentality that is typical of adolescents.

"You could spend $250,000 on a big TV ad on 'Felicity' and be lucky to get 250,000 responses," she said. "That's $1 a head, which is an awful lot. Plus, a campaign that's mostly word of mouth appeals more to teen-agers, and you get a lot better return on your investments." sells merchandise meant for junior-high and high-school consumers and provides articles from girls' magazines like Seventeen and YM. The Web site has agreements with more than 50 apparel and entertainment-based merchandisers.

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