To keep up with the tastes and styles of 15-to-25-year-olds who are hip and trendy but also cynical and fickle about brands, marketers are attacking on three fronts: They're spending more on in-house research, turning to a new breed of youth research agencies and diversifying their use of youth-oriented media.
According to a 1994 report by Yankelovich Partners for Viacom's MTV Europe, there are more than 100 million young, affluent, media-literate, music-loving Europeans.
Youth in the mid- to late-'90s are considered more realistic and sensible about their buying power than the previous generation. They are less rebellious, therefore more desirable for marketers. But they are much less definable, which frustrates advertisers trying to reach them.
DIFFICULT TO RESEARCH
"There is nothing to suggest what the overall concept of youth is," said Yann Tardif, PepsiCo International's marketing director for Europe, who is based in London.
"The youth market is volatile. Their behavior can vary in a single country, but you'll find similarities in different countries. All of them are very selective. They will not listen to [a marketer's message] again if you do not get their attention first time around."
Julia Rulf, VP-research at MTV Networks Europe, said, "Youth are not easy to research. For traditional [TV audience] monitoring methods, they are not ideal. Sitting still at home is not what they're about."
Increasingly, advertisers are commissioning their own research. PepsiCo carries out surveys continuously, and Mr. Tardif suggests that marketing executives of any age can benefit from mixing with young consumers to gauge what's hot and what's not.
PepsiCo's own research for its European launch of Pepsi Max, a sugar-free beverage, helped focus its campaign.
"We had evidence that the youth market was ready for a different cola," Mr. Tardif said. "It just happened to be one that didn't have sugar."
The problem, though, was getting young people, especially males, to drink what they consider to be a diet drink.
Pepsi Max ads needed to show that diet drinks are not only for people who want to lose weight; they needed to show that it's trendy and cool to drink sugar-free cola.
The end result was the vibrant "Live Life to the Max" campaign, part of the $80 million to $100 million TV campaign outside the U.S. by BBDO Worldwide, in which Pepsi Max drinkers perform death-defying stunts.
PERFORM RESEARCH FREQUENTLY
Condom-marketer London International Group based its pan-European "Feeling is Everything" Durex TV campaign by McCann-Erickson, London, on research it commissions quarterly. The frequency is necessary because "there's still a paucity of data on the quickly evolving youth market," said Catherine Taylor, LIG's group marketing controller.
LIG was so happy with the TV campaign that it used it globally on MTV through April.
Such advertisers' needs have prompted ad agencies and research companies to hone in on the youth market.
The most ambitious is McCann-Erickson's London-based Magic Hat, started in late 1995 in 13 European countries "to look for early trends in food, drink, consumer products, entertainment, media-anything that involves young people," said Managing Director Simon Aboud. Magic Hat began publishing its findings in a quarterly magazine and an Internet version last month. Among those findings are conclusions about young people's attitudes about life (see list at left).
In March, Magic Hat announced liquor marketer Bacardi-Martini as its first multinational client in a $1.14 million "radically new" music and audiovisual campaign. The campaign will be shown mainly on screens in night clubs and bars, plus some TV and cinema, throughout Europe starting later this month.
Similarly, Amsterdam-based Combat opened in September 1995 to capture the youth market for international advertisers. "Our clients are advertisers who want to establish an emotional relationship with young consumers today for the future," said Jan Morrien, a founding partner.
Clients include Chiquita Banana and CNV, a Dutch federation of trade unions in search of young members.
Advertisers are also recognizing the need to use new media, instead of concentrating on TV, once the overwhelming choice of young people.
"TV, although still a massive medium, is not doing the same job as 10 years ago," Magic Hat's Mr. Aboud said. "In the U.K., for example, the number of TV channels has grown 500%, the number of advertisers 3,000%, but the amount of viewing has risen by just 8%. If that doesn't worry marketers, what the hell does?"
Giovanni Fabris, McDonald's Restaurants' international media director, Paris, and chairman of the World Federation of Advertisers' media committee, said: "We need to learn how to use the Internet and to advertise on it more effectively."
Music network MTV Europe believes it provides the ideal environment for advertisers because there are more similarities than differences in its 16-to-34-year-old viewership across Europe. But with strong competition from local music TV channels, MTV is also thinking local.
"There's going to be more localized research [by MTV]," said Louise Angus, MTV Networks Europe's VP-advertising sales. In August 1995, MTV published a survey by Sponsorship Research Co., London, that found viewers' reactions to sponsorship on MTV Europe varied from indifference in Sweden to complete acceptance in Italy.
TARGETED SPORTS PROGRAMMING
Another pan-European satellite TV channel, Eurosport, has zeroed in on the youth market. In late 1995, Eurosport (owned partly by ESPN) began broadcasting its first dedicated youth programming, called Extreme Week, which features dangerous sports to attract young adult males. The programming has brought in new advertisers such as PolyGram Records and pharmaceuticals giant Warner-Lambert, which markets cough drops and other health-related confectionery products that are very popular with young people on the Continent.