Cingular Rocks The Vote With Universal

High school marketing weds music to wireless

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%%STORYIMAGE_LEFT%% Cingular Wireless, reaching out to young trendsetters on their own turf, launches an integrated campaign this month that will put the marketer's message on teen-trafficked Web sites and in high schools. The campaign incorporates Universal Music Group's up-and-coming punk-pop band Busted.

The program, dubbed "Cingular Invasion," centers on a sweepstakes where teens vote, via the Web and Cingular text messaging, to get a Busted concert at their school. Through a partnership with teen marketing firm Alloy's 360 Youth, New York, "Cingular Invasion" will get viral and offline exposure with more than 3 million teens.

The school environment is "a green field" for Cingular, which is gunning hard for the young demographic, said Dave Garver, the brand's executive director, national marketing. This is the brand's first foray into schools, where it will emphasize its teen-friendly pre-paid products.

GROWTH ENGINE

"This age group is the growth engine for the future of the wireless industry," Garver said. "There's a lot of effort being spent to attract and retain this audience."

There are some 25 million people under age 25 in the wireless category, Garver said, and the numbers are expected to increase 10% to 15% each year over the next five years. The "Cingular Invasion" campaign, which will run through mid-October, aims to "hit the passion points of school spirit and music," he said.

Alloy executives, who have mounted a number of sponsor-free in-school concerts, said the marketer overlay made sense in this case because of the symbiotic connection between music and wireless.

"When we use schools as marketing platforms, we need to make sure the commercial message is deft and not heavy handed," said Samantha Skey, 360 Youth's senior VP-convergent marketing. "We must deliver a value to students and school administration."

In addition to the concert, which goes to the school with the highest percentage of its student body voting, the program will donate $5,000 to the school's music department, Skey said.

%%PULLQUOTE_RIGHT%% UMG's Universal Records is looking for U.S. exposure for Busted, a pop trio that has two multi-platinum selling records in the U.K. The first U.S. record is scheduled for release this fall. Its single, "What I Go to School For," is already a chart-topper in the U.K., and will serve as a thematic focal point for "Cingular Invasion."

Becky Laub, manager of consumer marketing services at Universal Music Group, said the Cingular program will mean crucial added exposure for Busted, well beyond the traditional television and radio that the label plans.

"We'll focus on the top markets, and this program gets into places like Oklahoma City and Charlotte and St. Louis," Laub said. "And the massive online and school billboards aren't something we would've done on our own."

The fall program follows in the footsteps of Universal's Island Def Jam launch of Fefe Dobson on the high school circuit last year. 360 Youth and the label ran an online contest to have the 18-year-old singer-songwriter perform at a school. The heavily-trafficked Alloy.com featured stories, pictures and trivia about Dobson, and the firm used its direct marketing, catalogs and 25 million teen and college student database to hype the performer, who went from little known to top seller in a few months.

Among the outreach for "Cingular Invasion": targeted e-mail blasts to some 500,000 teen girls; "Cingular Invasion" info on Alloy.com and its sister site, ccs.com, which have 2 million visitors a month; on-site ads at the schools; and e-mails aimed at 250,000 kids in 90 targeted schools. The contest is open to any high school.

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