Voice Web teen chat expands to the coasts

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Voice Web wants to be heard nationwide. Beginning in January, the company will expand its teen phone chat service and marketing efforts beyond Phoenix and Rochester, N.Y.

Called "The Loup," Voice Web's service is a free voice mail and chat line for the under-17 set. Publicis Dialog, San Francisco, handled the Phoenix launch and will create ads market by market for the next cities. The company is expected to spend between $300,000 and $500,000 for marketing and advertising in each city, currently set to total 10 by the end of 2000.

Voice Web plans to go to market in Seattle in January, San Diego in February, San Francisco in April and Los Angeles in May, said CEO Robert Botch. He said the company then will roll out in cities on the East Coast in the fall.


Marketing efforts are concentrated locally with radio, postcards in high school newspapers, mall posters, movie advertising and event sponsorships on youth-oriented cable networks such as MTV.

"It's a combination of grass-roots and mass media," Mr. Botch said. "Word of mouth has proved to be one of the most effective ways to reach teens. We encourage them on the service to get their friends to sign up. We also hand out T-shirts, hats, decals and temporary tattoos."

Although the ads will be tailored for each market, the basic message will remain the same, said Marianne Wadleigh, Publicis account supervisor. The theme line is "No one over 17 admitted."

The Loup is free to users; it is paid for by advertisers who create 7- and 14-second ads. The ads play during transitions in the phone call, such as when a teen initially logs on or is switching from voice mail to a chat line.

Advertisers still are being signed up, Mr. Botch said, but so far include local amusement parks, movie theaters and a music label. Voice Web is also talking with clothing manufacturers, he said. As the service rolls out, advertisers can choose to post ads in just one city or systemwide.

Voice Web is hoping to have the same success in other markets as it has had in Phoenix. Ms. Wadleigh said Publicis was given the goal of 10% of the teen market in Phoenix-about 18,500 kids-registered within 60 days of launch. After just 30 days, about 16% or 30,000 teens had signed up, she said.

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