Toy Fair Special Report

STALKING THE ELUSIVE MARKET FOR BOY TOYS

Aiming Products at an Audience That Favors Superheros, Combat and Explosions

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Both boys and girls want "empowerment." It just seems that for boys, it often entails explosions, according to
Related Stories:
LICENSING NOW DRIVES $20 BILLION TOY INDUSTRY
Why Fewer and Fewer Companies are Serious Competitors
NEW BOOK ATTACKS 'BUYING AND SELLING OF TEENAGERS'
Marketers Flailed for Tawdry and Invasive Ad Techniques
P&G'S ONLINE YOUTH RESEARCH PROGRAM SIGNS CAA
Talent Agency to Provide Hollywood Consulting on 'Tremor' Project
HOW WIRED VOLUNTEERS TRACK 'COOL' IN AMERICA
The Special Marketers' Agencies That Chase 'What's Next'
INSIDE THE WORLD OF WIRELESS CHILDREN
New Survey Explores Cell Phone Use
WHAT CHILDREN SAY ABOUT MEDIA AND ADVERTISING
Study Finds They Love the Internet and Recognize Ads as Sales Hype

marketers who specialize in chasing this young market.

There are more than 40 million males aged 19 or younger in the U.S., according the U.S. Census Bureau, and though there are almost 2 million fewer girls, there often seems to be a clearer, more extensive choice of girl-targeted media for advertisers to choose from.

Sports, games, girls
On the print side, "Guys are much more vertical readers," said Michael Wood, vice president at Teenage Research Unlimited. "They may have a particular interest in sports, video games, music, cars and -- thanks to magazines like Maxim or Stuff -- girls. It's the niche magazines that deliver that kind of information and those kind of audiences."

On the TV side, "with the emergence of anime [Japanese animation], it's become apparent that there are some things that boys will watch that girls will never watch," said Cyma Zarghami, executive vice president and general manager at Viacom's Nickelodeon. She notes that boys are crazy about superheroes, high-velocity fighting and explosions.

To the frustration of marketers, there's no one-stop shop to reach young men. In 2001, Rodale shut down MH-18, a short-lived spinoff of Men's Health targeting the male teen. But Rodale may take another crack at that market, said Tom Beusse, senior vice president and managing director of the Men's Health & Sports Division. "It's not necessarily that MH-18 didn't work," he said. "It was getting some pretty good traction."

Even in a more solid economy, a magazine launch will be a risk. "The combination of print and young men has never been easy," he said.

Multimedia approach
Boys need to be reached with a rich blend of print, broadcast, Internet and event marketing, Mr. Wood said.

"Reaching boys has been a common problem for a long time," said Eric Blankfein, vice president and director of planning for Horizon Media, New York. TV hasn't been the answer because "there is not a lot of television consumption among teen and tween boys."

"It's the nature of the life stage," Mr. Blankfein said. "They're involved in a lot of outdoor activities like skateboarding, and indoors they're playing a lot of video games, computer games and using the Internet."

A bright spot on the print side has been the so-called laddie books such as Dennis Publishing's Maxim. Mr. Blankfein said the racier fare of "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" has found a receptive audience among older teen boys, primarily those 17 and up.

One winning formula
Time Inc.'s TransWorld Media has a winning formula for reaching young guys in print -- a lineup that includes board sports and BMX. Peter Ferraro, vice president of advertising, said TransWorld magazines can deliver a predominantly young male audience because its eight titles, with circulation of 680,000, are built around the "passion points" of readers.

Some wonder how intensely boys read as opposed to girls, who have a reputation for being voracious readers. "We joke in the building that boys look at pictures and the girls read the text," said Randy Hild, senior vice president of marketing at Quiksilver, whose flagship line of surfwear is designed for guys and its more recently introduced Roxy line is aimed at girls.

Quiksilver ads appear in such publications as Maxim, Spin and Details. To ensure that the ads find their mark, Mr. Hild said, "We spend a lot of time on our photos because guys are definitely influenced by images."

'Slam' block
Children's cable kingpin Nickelodeon in 2001 launched its boy-oriented Slam block of programming. The two-hour block on Sunday afternoons has drawn an audience of more than 70% boys. Slam has been a hit with advertisers such as Hasbro, which has a strong portfolio of boys toys, Ms. Zarghami said.

At AOL Time Warner's Cartoon Network, Bill Schultz as executive producer last August debuted a new He-Man & the Masters of the Universe, updated from the 1980s animated series, and he believes advertisers are more interested in reaching boys than girls.

A lot of testosterone
"It's always been the belief that the boys -- not the girls -- control the TV remotes," he says, adding that even for 6- to 11-year-old boys, "it's a lot of testosterone. Good guys vs. bad guys chasing and fighting. Boys like action.

In this article:
Most Popular