Generation Y, a fickle, opinionated bunch, is the first generation to grow up with computers.
These kids spend a lot of time online, not just at school, but also at home for social interaction and entertainment. According to market researcher Teen Research Unlimited, 62% of teen-agers say they log on from home for 4.2 hours a week, while 46% spend 2.3 hours a week using a computer outside the home.
"The Internet is very much a part of their lives," says Michele Slack, a Jupiter Communications analyst.
Teens say they spend most of their online time doing research (72.%), sending and reading e-mail (63.5%), playing games (28%) or checking out things to buy or making purchases (23.5%), according to TRU data.
Internet consultancy Cyber Dialogue data reveal the number of teen-agers going online at least once a month grew by nearly 70% between 1998 and 1999.
That frequency, coupled with the fact that 10% of these kids has a credit card in his own name and 9% has access to a parent's card with which to shop online, adds up to an efficient ad buy for marketers wanting to reach -- and sell to -- teens.
"It creates an opportunity to interact with them," says Ms. Slack. "Teens are really starting to find and lock in on their brand affinities at that age, so this is a great time to get in front of them."
Some teen-oriented sites, including Alloy Online, Bolt.com and the teen area of young adult portal Snowball.com, have inked deals with major marketers for online advertising and sponsorships.
Alloy, for example, recently signed on Cover Girl as its exclusive cosmetics marketer. Under the deal, Cover Girl will be the only line of cosmetics Alloy will sell, both online and in its monthly catalog.
DEALS ADD UP
Alloy also will develop co-branded content and promotions for Cover Girl. Bolt.com, a site for 15-to-20-year-olds, has inked marketing deals with such mainstream marketers as Adidas, Ford Motor Co., Maybelline and Coca-Cola Co.
Bolt.com President-CEO Dan Pelson says such advertisers' interest in online teen sites is a relatively new phenomenon.
"Over the last year to year and a half, we have seen major marketers increasing their awareness of and desire to reach the market," says Mr. Pelson. Bolt.com advertisers run banners, integrated sponsorships and direct e-mail campaigns, he says.
Snowball.com is a portal that claims to serve both Gen Y and Gen X youth; it includes ChickClick.com for young women, IGN.com for young men, PowerStudents.com for high school and college students, and InsideGuide.com for college students.
The portal has inked deals with major marketers, including Sony Corp., Toyota Motor Sales USA and Pillsbury Co. The site also has received "a lot of interest from the entertainment world," says Betsy Murphy, VP-sales and marketing at Snowball.com.
In November, New Line Cinema made an equity investment in Snowball.com. Under the deal, the companies cross-promote each other's offerings; Snowball.com's networks, for example, appear in feature films as product placement and are advertised at the start of New Line videos. In return, Snowball.com promotes New Line movies.
Some traditional media companies also are looking to the Web as a new outlet for their teen-oriented offerings.
Emap Petersen, publisher of Teen, Snowboarder, Skateboarder, Surfer and Bike, recently granted Web developer Kick Media the online rights to all of Emap's teen publications. In turn, Kick Media will be charged with creating original content and e-commerce opportunities for these teen sites.
Emap and venture capital fund Smart Tech Ventures II also have invested a combined $8 million in Kick Media, which will receive promotion through Emap publications.
E-MAIL GIFT IDEAS
Capitalizing on teens' buying power, Secretwish.com is an online gift registry that enables teens to register for gifts and e-mail their selections to family and friends. Fossil, Candies and Tommy Hilfiger are some of the most popular brands among teens registering online, the company says.
Some marketers, such as Coca-Cola Co., also are experimenting with coordinated online and offline promotions targeted at teens.
"When you can hit consumers in multiple marketing locations, you can be more effective because you can reinforce the message," Ms. Slack says.