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Big Marketers Get Home-Schooled

Ad Age Goes to the Source to Learn What the Children of Some of Advertising's Largest Spenders Are Teaching Them

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Who are the biggest influencers in media today? Well they might just be people like Jackie Healey and Maddie and Shawn Allen.

These names probably won't ring a bell among most media practitioners -- and for good reason. They're the children of Jodi Allen, Procter & Gamble's VP-North American marketing and operations, and her boss, Melanie Healey, group president for North America. But the teens, and others like them, hold some serious sway with America's senior marketing executives, who happen to be their parents.

P&G's Melanie Healey and her daughter, Jackie.
P&G's Melanie Healey and her daughter, Jackie. Credit: Ryan Kurtz

Steve Hasker, president of media product and advertiser solutions at Nielsen Co., sees much of the interest in measuring digital media as coming from executives acutely aware of how much time their kids spend with it, he noted in an interview earlier this year. So to understand those influences on a few key decision-makers, Advertising Age recently spent some time with Ms. Allen and Ms. Healey—and their teen daughters.

What the girls are up to may give fits to much of the media world, from TV networks to Facebook. Other players -- such as Twitter, Pandora, the mobile-marketing industry and even magazine publishers -- have new cause for hope.

The smartphone is the three teens' primary conduit to friends, social media and the wider world. Their phones are the first thing they check in the morning, the last item inspected at night and the only tool they can count on for unrestricted web access at school. Text is , by far, what they use most to converse with friends.

All three have Facebook friend counts above 2,000 and once were FarmVille enthusiasts. While they still check Facebook daily, they've quit playing games and reported spending less time overall on the social network. That's because of newer infatuations, such as Instagram and SnapChat, plus annoyance with all the stuff clogging the newsfeeds of their friends. Maddie, 17, has tried paring her friend list but finds the task burdensome.

Jackie, also 17, likes Twitter since "you can put up random thoughts and it's not annoying like it is on Facebook."

All three receive most of their video through Netflix. Jackie said she only watches ad-supported TV at the gym.

Shawn, 16, is an "American Idol" fan but complained about all the ads and said she'd probably fast-forward through them more if her mom didn't wish to see them.

Jackie is probably the most ad averse when it comes to watching TV. She also said she doesn't notice ads on Facebook but mentioned ones there for cool dresses from Modcloth.com after a follow-up question from her mom. And she acknowledged noticing TV ads that ask viewers to use Shazam.

Pandora is a saving grace for ad-supported media in both households. All three girls use the service and said they can't help but notice the ads, yet don't hate them enough to pay to avoid them.

All three are heavy Google users and admit they notice the ads. That's the one site that 's unblocked at school.

Jackie subscribes to Seventeen, and the Allen girls leaf through magazines received by their parents, though they don't subscribe to any themselves.

Lately, the Allens have started using SnapChat to send embarrassing "selfies" (photos of themselves) to friends with the assurance that they'll disappear within seconds. And all three girls use Instagram (acquired by Facebook) to share the photos they want to last.

Ms. Healey also joined Instagram this year after her daughter's Facebook friends told her it was where photos from a trip to Chile were stored.

What the kids do "absolutely" affects Ms. Healey's business decisions, from helping justify a heavy use of magazines when she ran P&G's feminine-care business to their serving as unofficial vetters of new media, she said.

"You get a lot of pitching at a company like P&G," Ms. Healey said. "Sometimes I'll come home and say, "Jackie, have you heard about this?' If she's never heard of it before, I'll maybe think twice or maybe go look for some more information. If it's "Yeah, I'm doing that all the time' or "[I'm] not going on Facebook as much,' those things either raise a green or a red light in your head."

Ms. Allen is measured in her approach to Facebook: "We're trying to get the balancing act right between what are we doing on Facebook with what objective, what [we are doing] on Twitter with what objective. Each medium has a different role."

Both executives stress that their kids don't serve as their "only data point."

And when it comes to their kids' general avoidance of TV ads, "It makes us have to be much more interesting," Ms. Allen said. "If it's to the point they would like it on Facebook or more importantly share it, then I know we have a home run."

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