Marketing to Kids, Circa 1988

The Lumina Foundation, the American Council on Education and the Ad Council want to persuade more middle and high schoolers to make proper preparation for college. And so to reach them they put an PSA in GamePro magazine.

Terrific idea, if this was still 1988.

The year 1988 was pre-World Wide Web and smartphone. Sonny Bono was mayor of Palm Springs. It was the year Aloha Flight 243 lost several yard of its upper fuselage while in flight. In 1988 the Red Army started to withdraw from Afghanistan. And boxer Lennox Lewis, fighting for Canada, beat American Riddick Bowe at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea in the Super Heavyweight division.

1988 was also the year GamePro itself debuted and it may have been the last time a PSA like this, which I found in the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database, had any chance of actually reaching kids.

Look at the boxing glove visual, for instance. There are exactly 153 kids in the 12-18-year-old age range in the United States who have seen a real boxing glove more recently than they’ve seen an MMA glove, which has an open palm. The algebra on the blackboard in the background harkens back to The Dead Poets Society (shot in 1988 but released in 1989).

This is classic ‘interruption advertising,’ to use Seth Godin’s felicitous phrase. Kids read GamePro to get screenshots, reviews, tips and the like, not read lame ads. If I recall the issue correctly, there wasn’t even that much advertising in it. So this PSA stuck out like a sore thumb. And not in a good way.

The call to action is to send the game young reader to, which is certainly content heavy, even if it lacks a genuine voice. It looks and reads looks like it was designed and written by an old guy like me trying to be young and cool. “Learning how to kick flip six stairs takes determination. So will getting into college,” one of three rotating graphics on the front page tells us.

Know How 2 Go strikes me as a natural for Facebook. But since the summer of 2008 the corresponding Facebook page has garnered a grand total of 527 fans. Where's the Facebook or smartphone app that helps kids plan for college? MIA, it appears.

Someone’s trying here. They’re just doing it in a way appropriate for kids in 1988, not 2011.

How would you reach kids in 2011 in a way that doesn’t violate any laws or breach privacy? How could you make better use of Facebook and social media?

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