BABYSITTING DOLLARS CATCH MARKETERS' EYES: TEEN AND TWEEN CROWD GROWING, EXERTING ENTERTAINMENT MUSCLE

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Girl power is a force marketers are learning to harness as the disposable income of the overall tween-age and teen-age segment continues to rise.

According to Interep Research, overall teen-age spending was $119 billion for 1998 and is expected to rise to $136 billion by 2001. In 1997, teens spent about $108 billion.

The spending is in categories across the board, said Ira Matathia, CEO of Brand Futures Group, a unit of Young & Rubicam, New York.

Girls ages 13 to 15 years old had about $45 a week in discretionary money in 1997 and spent about $41, according to Interep. About $24 came from their allowance and $21 came from other earnings.

"Teen and preteen girls are the beneficiaries of the backside of the general economic contentment-among a certain stripe of affluence," said Mr. Matathia. "Babysitting is becoming a real growth industry."

As girls generate more disposable income, they also are looking for new ways to spend their money and younger girls seem to aspire to acquire products geared for older girls.

NEW WAYS TO SPEND

"Certainly the number of choices teens that age have, have increased," said Michael Wood, Teenage Research Unlimited, a research company. "We know young girls aspire older.

"Look at The Limited 2 that skews much younger. If you walk into a discount store like Target [Stores], Wal-Mart [Stores] or Kmart-or drugstores-and take a look at the cosmetic aisles [you will see] there are more cosmetics targeted for teens and some skew very young."

Tom McGee, VP at Doyle Marketing Research, sees marketers that had been reaching for the boys acknowledging the girls market.

Johann Wachs, VP-strategic planning at Saatchi & Saatchi Kid Connection, New York, said, "The interesting thing that is happening . . . [is that] now people recognize girls have different play experiences. . . With girls [it's about] more cooperative play and based on the real world-negotiating social interaction."

SOFTWARE WITH A TWIST

Mr. Wachs cites software company Purple Moon's Rockett Movado character as an example of CD-Rom software for girls that integrates girl-play.

Purple Moon "has invented a new category [for girls] called friendship adventures," said Mr. Wachs. "Basically the subject of those games is about social interaction and `who am I in relation to my peers' [a subject] very much on girls minds between ages of 9 and 14."

Music is another important area of spending among the tween set. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the 10-to-14-year-old age group in 1997 accounted for 8.9% of the $12.2 billion recorded-music market-the only segment under age 34 to show an increase.

Mr. Wachs said the industry is directly targeting the segment by creating such groups. "Look at the boy bands-Hanson-these are products that are manufactured with a target audience in mind. These groups are assembled like a product and the marketing is very targeted," said Mr. Wachs.

"At age 9, there's a real shift and girls mature earlier. That [maturity] includes fashion and music-that's a preteen interest," said Tom McGee, VP at Doyle Market Research.

13 GOING ON 30

"Kids are 13 going on 30," said Mr. Matathia. "They are in an incredible hurry to grow up-as a consequence the things that influence the conventional media is one component of it. Think about the way the three major networks are programming to them-the advent of WB."

Mr. Matathia points to the success of "Varsity Blues" a movie that has been No. 1 at the box office.

"It was no accident that the lead actor comes right out of `Dawson's Creek.' [The audience was] reacting to James Van Der Beek. How many ways can you bundle up this marketing package? He shows up in `Dawson's Creek,' in this movie and as the host of `Saturday Night Live' the day the movie opens. There you have

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