|Roman Tsunder, founder and CEO of Access 360 Media, wants to help make your brand cool.
Why you need to know him: Mr. Tsunder's three-year-old company, previously known as Access Retail Entertainment, reaches more than 30 million 12- to 24-year-olds through a marketer-supported in-store TV, online and wireless network.
Credentials: Mr. Tsunder believes in being age-appropriate, but as the 32-year-old works in the youth-marketing world, he also knows that sometimes it's just too hard to leave behind his blinged-out belt buckle. Mr. Tsunder began his career at Credit Suisse First Boston, but soon homed in on interactive-media content and technology by joining venture-capital firm Digital Coast Partners. In 2002, he joined ETV Networks, an in-store TV network, before realizing he wanted to start his own company. In 2003, he opened Access 360 Media.
What's behind your company's name change? "It's a definite change in focus. We used to say we're really great at retail and we're really great at the youth market [and] understanding youths. Now we're really great at retail, online and mobile. That's why it's called Access 360, because we've expanded to these other two platforms to close the circle."
What's your personal philosophy behind why Generation Y is so important? "We've all been young adults, we've all been 19, we've all been 21. It's the one commonality we all have, but as we get older it gets harder to relate to. Have you seen how many people focus on the youth market these days? It's unbelievable. It's because this is the first demographic that has never been brought up based on traditional media. If you look at this demographic, which has something like $200 billion in disposable income ... they are the first generation that's grown up pulling content instead having it pushed at them. ... They can pull whatever content they want to watch on whatever device they want at whatever time they want."
What are you doing differently than other networks focused on youth marketing? "Frankly, not all brands are cool, and we help make brands cool. We help set trends, I guess. We have a gut instinct because we live the Gen Y/young-adult lifestyle. Some things are easy -- everybody knows Justin Timberlake is going to sell. Our programming within the store and online and mobile is based on action sports, so we're at the X Games, we're at the snowboarding contests and we're at the big-wave competition for surfing. We also have connections in regular entertainment television, studios, magazines. We are involved in the production pipeline, so we know what's going to hit the market, and then we make our bets on who we think is going to stand out. And because we are part of that pipeline, we know which artists are going to be hot, so we also feature them on our network."
What are some of the greatest challenges you face in your work? "Our biggest challenge is that we're selling media to [older] adults that is supposed to be viewed by 21-year-olds. I wish we could go with a media buyer and spend a day with them at an action-sports event or go to an after-school activity with a brand manager. We try to do that with store tours; we love to take buyers on store tours so they can interact with the kids. What we see sometimes is brand marketers making decisions on what to buy based on what their kids tell them. We call those people 'marents': marketers who are parents."
Why do you think branded entertainment works better in the youth market? "The programs we create are branded-entertainment and advertising deals. One example is with the advertiser Cingular where Access 360 Media developed content featuring Bam Margera promoting the Cingular Wireless Short Film Festival. The content was pure Bam and perfect for the young-adult stores Journey's and Underground Station. It featured him at his home demonstrating the phone, showing the kind of films he would make, putting his parents into the film and just being the crazy skateboarder he is known for. In addition to the TV content featured in our in-store network, there was also signage and a promotional tie-in where winners of the Cingular Wireless Short Film Festival got to have dinner with Bam and the family. We brought in Bam, and Cingular thought he was perfect for their youth-marketing efforts.
"For our advertising partner Wrigley's we worked with the rapper Fabolous to create content as part of the 'Winterfresh Network Where Icy Cool Breath is Always On.' Fabolous hosted our in-store TV program for the month and we created funny interstitials showing that if there are any artists who need 'cool breath' it is rap stars. All the content had a real sense of humor so that it worked for a young-adult audience -- they see right through the marketing, so everything we do has that sense of authenticity and humor."