OgilvyOne Youth Panel Taps Trendsetters

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Direct marketing agency OgilvyOne Worldwide, New York, is in the third year of forming a panel called Tribe 25 to predict trends in the evolving youth market.


The panel of 15 U.S. participants younger than 25 is intended to help the agency and its clients understand a demographic that accounts for 1.6 billion people worldwide and influences $700 billion in annual spending.


"This panel consists of trendsetters and trend spotters, not a simple focus group of conformer teens," said Patricia Eitel, senior partner of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, the New York parent of OgilvyOne. "They are located in New York, one of the first places where trends develop."


The agency recruits, auditions and selects a new panel each year.


So what's the incentive for participants?


"Fame, fortune and internship," said Mat Zucker, OgilvyOne creative director. "These kids are ambitious. They gave up a Sunday to audition, and they gave up a lot of time during the year. But they get so much out of it. A little bit of money, a digital camera [to document year-round assignments] ... and often a letter of recommendation from their Ogilvy mentor."


The Tribe 25 panel is designed to generate insights across every stage of brand and message development. One such insight is providing feedback on broad questions that guide creative and strategy development. Kodak, for instance, wanted to gauge opinions on how digital photos differ from paper versions. Do youths use them differently, prefer one to the other or take varied approaches for distinct events?


Brainstorming product ideas is another benefit. Panelists once were asked to design the ideal cell phone including technology that does not exist.


Feedback on creative campaigns is a third option for marketers using Tribe 25. Chocolate giant Hershey Foods used Tribe 25 as reporters for its Jolly Rancher candy brand. The goal was to generate ideas for communications and new products. Panelists were given $20 to buy Jolly Rancher candy. They then were asked to document product purchase behavior, consumption habits, cultural status and comparison to competitors.


Feedback showed Jolly Rancher was the candy teens turned to in situations that they needed to make more interesting. This helped OgilvyOne with a new strategic recommendation for Jolly Rancher: "When you can't change your situation, change your head."


For the Sprite Remix brand, Tribe 25 was asked questions regarding people in history who have changed the rules, a concept central to Remix's strategy. The Tribe screened three rough cuts and print elements of advertising for Sprite Remix. The feedback led to the juxtaposition of old and new ideas, and imagery to create something unique. A new Remix strategy was created as a result.


Tribe 25 also has undertaken projects for AT&T Corp., Motorola and the Fanta soft drink brand.


"We don't just look for the typical fashion trends that everyone seems to pursue but rarely use," Zucker said. "We look for specific details that help shape client work: opinions, actual verbiage -- language for scripts, copy and authenticity -- gadgets and behavior.


"While many teen resources in agencies and companies live an isolated life in the research department and don't get fully tapped, our panel is hosted not just by the planning department, but by a cross-disciplinary team giving it a home in the creative department. This makes the Tribe more accessible to day-to-day client work."


Peer-to-peer interaction is key as well.


"Teens are a fickle bunch," Zucker said, "and if we've learned anything about the digital age, it's not about selling to kids but communicating with them. Peer to peer is a big part of marketing, especially among youth demographics. We need to be inside to see how this works."


Tribe 25 is not the only youth panel in the market. Youth research is available from Teenage Research Unlimited, Yankelovich Youth Monitor and Youth Intelligence's Cassandra Report.


"They bring their own perspectives to the table," Eitel said of Tribe 25. "The theory is that influencer teens, who are the first adopters of new fashion, technology, music, etc., influence the majority of the teen population of conformers in their purchasing decisions -- how they look, act, buy, think.


"This is not intended to be a focus group or market research panel that is representative. There are plenty of those out there. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. Trend spotting is harder to come by, and that's where the Tribe is reliable, because they're the ones setting the trends."


Zucker agrees.


"Their opinions are their own," he said. "It's the interpretation of these opinions that's important. Our staff is careful about how we use the wisdom and how we extrapolate what we learn into real work or points of view. They're not a focus group, but even in a focus group, you have to be judicious in how you use and interpret what you hear."


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