Agencies pile on the resources

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Kids are a dramatically growing and constantly changing buying force that's estimated to influence close to $300 billion in spending, according to Christine Fruechte, VP-general manager, Campbell Mithun Esty KidCom, Minneapolis.

To help clients capture kids' attention, ad agencies have spun off special units like Grey Advertising's G-WhiZ! Youth Marketing, Saatchi & Saatchi's Kid Connection and WPP Group's Geppetto Group-all in New York.

Besides offering traditional services, these breakout shops provide in-depth knowledge of kids' ever-changing culture. For instance, experts at Leo Burnett USA's KidLeo, Chicago, recently completed a study on kids' friendships.

"We realized that how kids talk about friends also applies to brands,"

says Kathy Lalley, executive planning director and a co-founder of KidLeo. "We've shown this to clients and they're thinking about how to be friends with kids."

Independent agencies totally focused on the youth market also are making impressive headway in the field. Fueled by entrepreneurs who honestly love the world of kids, these kid-centric agencies recognize the power of the youth market and have decided to call it home. A selection of some shops includes:

Date Agency/Parent Launched Billings Clients Comment

As If, New York

DKO Group

April 1999

$36 million

OshKosh B'Gosh shoes, Nine West Kids and Playmobil

"There are 60 million kids between 5 and 20," says Elena Scotti, founder of As If. "They have tremendous economic clout and are tremendously self-sufficient. This gives them far more `say' in family and personal economics."

CME KidCom, Minneapolis

Campbell Mithun Esty



Minnesota Department of Health Anti-Smoking Campaign, General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch, KB Gear Interactive

Campbell Mithun Esty claims to have been marketing to kids and families for 40 years. It formalized its commitment to the youth market by creating CME KidCom.

G-WhiZ! Youth Marketing, New York

Grey Advertising

January 1999

$35 million

Warner Home Video, Elmer's glue, Playtex's Mr. Bubble

"Clients with youth-oriented brands have expressed the real need for specialized communications solutions, ideas that transcend single mediums to reach young consumers at multiple points of contact with their brands," says G-WhiZ! President Barbara Martino. The shop "represents a new paradigm for achieving greater communications synergy."

Geppetto Group, New York

WPP Group

September 1997

$35 million in 1998

BMG Music, Kids Foot Locker, Wild Planet Toys

"General-market agencies are appropriately not interested in or committed to the youth market to the degree that's necessary to be successful," says Julie Halpin, CEO. "We're able to focus our time, people and financial resources on being true experts in the youth market."

Imagination Company, Bethel, Vt.



$6 million

Vermont Pure Springs, various mountain resorts

"The Internet is the place to be if you want to reach kids," says Jack Girompini, director of promotions and technology. "Kids are looking for a wealth of information in that medium, which they find very attractive and can gain this information in an expeditious fashion."

Kid Connection, New York

Saatchi & Saatchi

January 1992


All Saatchi & Saatchi clients can make use of the Kid Connection for data and consulting on the youth market.

KidLeo, Chicago

Leo Burnett USA

Fall 1998


Crayola, Hallmark Cards

"The fact that kids are learning and growing puts a very different spin on whatever you do for them compared to what you do for adults," says Kathy Lalley, executive planning director and co-founder of KidLeo. "They're fascinating and unique."

Kid Think

DDB Worldwide's Griffin Bacal, New York



Mott's, Pepsi-Cola Co., Lipton, Frito-Lay

"Kids are an incredibly dynamic market," says Paul Kurnit, president of Griffin Bacal and Kid Think. "All of us who market to kids want to provide responsible communication that educates and informs them about products, ideas and services that in some way will enrich their lives."

Kidvertisers, New York



$20 million

Zowie Intertainment, Nickelodeon (except magazines)

"You can really immerse yourself in the category and understand it and ride the changes culturally," says Deyna Vesey, creative director and co-president. "We try to get a `wow' out of a kid based on what it is in the product that's a `wow.' What our clients do is so cool it's easy."

Thelma Lager & Associates, Los Angeles

Independent 1964

Around $1 million

Arm's Reach Bedside Co-Sleeper, Kids II

"The market is growing tremendously because more people are becoming educated about having babies," says Thelma Lager, founder of this agency that concentrates on the prenatal-to-4 market. "[To address this market] you have to understand what's important to organizations like Lamaze and the La Leche League. That saves your clients tons of time."

Summit Media Group, New York

4Kids Entertainment Co.


$125 million

Furby, THQ Video Games, WCW Wrestling

Summit Media was conceived and designed to do media planning, buying and program distribution for youth-oriented products and services. "The tween market is a big area of concentration for Summit," says President Tom Kenney. "Any media for the tween audience has to cover everything including broadcast, print, online and outdoor advertising."

WonderGroup, Cincinnati



$35 million

Chiquita, Toymax, Smucker's, Elmer's Glue Kids

"We like to work with clients whose products or services enhance the lives of today's youth," says Exec VP Greg Livingston. "We are constantly doing research that allows us to really understand the youth market, much more than an agency with only one youth client."

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