Internet Hub Kickoff Targets $100B Student Market

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YouthStream Media Networks, New York, today is expected to kick off college student Internet hub with a marketing push that will target more than 10 million 15 to 25 year olds.

YouthStream is a new company formed by the merger of on-campus marketer Network Event Theater, New York, and CommonPlaces, Cambridge, MA.

"We are bringing all of the college marketing experience of Network Event Theater together with the Internet marketing knowledge of CommonPlaces," said Bill Townsend, vice president of corporate branding at YouthStream.

Also participating in the merger are other companies that market to the college audience, including HotStamp, Beyond The Wall, Campus Voice, American Passage and Trent Graphics.

According to Townsend, those companies will continue to operate under their current names, but will slowly be phased out over the next six to eight months. Trent Graphics, for example, will become the YouthStream Super Poster Show and American Passage will become the YouthStream Newspaper Network.

YouthStream plans to contact 10 million current and soon-to-be college students a month through advertisements in magazines, posters and postcards. It has relationships with more than 2,000 colleges and 7,000 high schools around the country.

"We are going to be using all of our media to get in front of these students about 12 to 15 times a month," Townsend said. "At the campus poster shows the first week of school we will be handing out a couple of million postcards to students with the Web address on the back. There will also be campus voice programs, trailers before movies shown on campus and at-rack newspaper bins containing advertisements for the site."

Already 600 marketers have signed on to participate, including Ford, Nike, Snapple and BMW. YouthStream also is making advertising opportunities available to small retailers and local mom-and-pop stores. More than 4 million products from 450 marketers are currently available to students.

High school students will receive information about the site through locker-room bulletin boards called GymBoards, which target males and females separately. High school students, who can use the site to find information on colleges and scholarships, specify which college they will attend. YouthStream then provides them with information about their future college.

The main push for the site will take shape in the form of a student-oriented promotional campaign.

"This is a very skeptical group and they really don't believe anybody but other students," he said. "This campaign will involve three students and is going to focus on their experiences with the site during its test phase."

The student campaign will direct students to the site where three "celebrity" students have documented their use of, specifically how they have used it, their opinions of it, the marketing offers they have received through it and how it has helped them to better manage their time.

Direct mail will be used in certain instances Townsend said. "If a particular campus wants to promote a certain aspect of the site, we will run a direct mail campaign with them," he said.

Students will receive highly targeted offers based on the profiles they create, which will include their name, school, age, gender and ZIP code. The profiles will eventually grow to include majors and other areas of interest regarding a student's courses.

Ads appearing in banner form will contain either links back to the advertiser's home page or to the retail location closest to the student's school. YouthStream plans on doing offline advertising as well with its marketers by promoting them on the posters, postcards and other print campaigns.

"By doing both online and off-line advertising it helps to put the advertiser in a stronger spot," Townsend said.

The majority of the revenue YouthStream will be generating is going to come through its revenue sharing program it has with marketers.

According to Liesel Pollvogt, vice president of marketing communications at YouthStream, the marketing industry spends nearly $30 billion trying to reach this $100 billion market.

Other features of the site include a Web-based e-mail address, an academic search engine, job-search databases, financial aid and scholarship information databases and campus calendars.

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