Avoiding Sizzle of 'Swizzle' Chat Rooms

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Months after closing its controversial Swizzle teen-community site in the U.K., Procter & Gamble Co. is plunging back into teen-community building with two sites in the U.S. -- Tremor and Toejam. The sites advance a strategy P&G President-CEO A.G. Lafley outlined last year as identifying and leveraging influence of "teen chat leaders" to market products.

The initiatives also serve as market-research conduits. Toejam, formally launched March 4 and focusing for now on Southern California, promises to let members preview new products and "critique" ads before they're distributed widely.

Less is known about Tremor, which has yet to fully launch. But the site, which is now accepting registrations, appears aimed at both market research and recruiting teens and preteens for word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. A parental-information section of Tremor says members are selected from "hundreds of participants from across the country" and that the site will "reward the most active members with merchandise and other opportunities to express themselves as members of their generation."

Contest and giveaways
Toejam offers members a chance to register for "welcome gifts" that include samples of P&G products, which will also be distributed at parties and entertainment events, with tickets distributed by retailers and members. The site is backed by print, outdoor, event, radio and in-store advertising and promotion via Barefoot Advertising, Cincinnati. A contest, launched in late February and promoted on two radio stations and in Longs Drug and Food4Less stores, had teens enter a drawing to win 450 invitations to launch parties at malls in Glendale and San Diego.

Toejam stands for "Teens Openly Expressing Just About Me," and the site will encourage teens to submit essays, stories and poems on topics to be selected by the community. Site copy portrays it as the brainchild of six teen girls who met in a firehouse.

A P&G spokesman and Barefoot executives wouldn't comment on who developed site content. P&G, however, last year entered a partnership with online teen community Bolt.com that included content-development consultation.

Risque chat
P&G isn't shying from teen communities despite trouble with Swizzle, a community launched last spring as a joint venture with Excite U.K. Swizzle sparked complaints from parents and P&G employees because of message boards and chat rooms filled with sexual banter among teens and preteens. Last year, P&G Global Marketing Officer Bob Wehling cited inadequate controls for the site's problems.

P&G took sole control of Swizzle in October and closed its online chat and message boards. It shuttered the site in December as traffic waned.

Asked why P&G won't run into the same problems as Swizzle, a P&G spokesman said: "At this time we do not have chat rooms [in Toejam], and we will carefully consider how we use chat rooms in the future."

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