Instant Power

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If it's true that teen-agers want to be heard, then 16-year-old Ashley Power is finding plenty of ways to get her message out. And that message is spreading beyond her peers to ad-supported media.

The Los Angeles youth and her parents started three years ago with a Web site named for a broken lawn ornament and have expanded from there. Today, Goosehead.com says it attracts more than 5,000 daily page views, and Ms. Power is preparing to take her message to cable and broadcast TV.

Viacom's Showtime this fall will debut a cable TV version of "Whatever," a teen-oriented series Ms. Power co-writes for her Web site. On the broadcast side, General Electric Co.'s NBC has a development deal for a Saturday morning talk show starring Ms. Power.


Goosehead.com is not unique. Other teen-oriented platforms include Snowball.com, Alloy Online and Bolt.

Also, targeting girls is no assurance of success. Teen girl sites with bigger backers have failed. Kibu launched in April 2000 with a multimillion-dollar campaign from True North Communications' FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, and $22 million in funding and initial support from such advertisers as Barnesandnoble.com and Skechers USA. Kibu also had grand plans for TV and other cross-promotional deals. Less than six months later, Kibu had closed, citing a lack of interest by advertisers and investors.

But Ashley Power asserts her age differentiates Goosehead's content from other media aimed at teens. For marketers toiling to understand what teens like and want, that could be powerful lure. And when it comes to marketability and messages of empowerment, Ms. Power could become the teen set's answer to Oprah.

"Very early on in life [Ms. Power] found out what she was very good at," says Andy Licht, a principal of Goosehead.com. "Ashley is the voice of teens."

Ms. Power's Goosehead site started as her eighth-grade collection of photographs, links, music files and computer artwork. The site now features message boards, horoscopes, personal advice and homework help, in addition to episodes of "Whatever."

Privately owned Goosehead is funded by family and friends, and the Web site features product tie-ins and advertising from such hot-button marketers as sports apparel company Oakley.

Goosehead also is dipping into e-commerce, selling T-shirts and caps bearing the site's logo, a smiling cartoon goose face. According to Ms. Power, who holds the title of president at Goosehead, the operation at this point covers its overhead though it's not yet profitable. Mr. Licht says Goosehead hopes to continue developing close relationships with advertisers. "We want to bring in key brands and cross-promote on the TV side and on the Web," he says.

"In the beginning I just wanted to have a good time and make shows and be around people I liked and do something that I enjoyed doing," says Ms. Power. "When I first pitched what I thought the business model should be, we had a plan of where we were going to be in a couple years. And that couple years quickly turned into the next 12 months and we were moving double [the speed that] we expected."

Now Ms. Power and Goosehead are spreading their wings


"Whatever," which addresses teen issues ranging from sexuality to family conflict to picking up pet poop, has attracted not only Showtime but also actor Richard Dreyfuss, who joined Goosehead as a partner last year to help create more Web-based programming. Ms. Power's mother, Michelle Schilder, produces "Whatever," and her stepfather, Mark Schilder, directs. Ms. Power, of course, stars in the series.

Laura Caraccioli, VP-director at Bcom3 Group's Starcom Entertainment, Chicago, sees promise in Ms. Power's moves into TV. Showtime will do an excellent job translating "Whatever" into a cable show, Ms. Caraccioli believes.

But the agency executive is more skeptical about how the interactive energy of Goosehead.com will translate to a talk show on a major broadcast network.

She also worries that NBC may take the edge off Goosehead's frank content, thus damaging the Goosehead brand. "If they listen to [Ms. Power's] voice, it should be a good show," Ms. Caraccioli says. "Hopefully, she won't be manipulated into doing something flat."

Taking the Goosehead brand to offline media offers an opportunity to "really talk to the teen consumer and really tap into their passions and desires," Ms. Caraccioli adds. "You can probably do some really interesting advertising."

Helping Goosehead's achieve its media ambitions is Seth Bedell, CEO of Hollywood-based Brand-Cast, a company that packages, negotiates and sells branded entertainment packages. Mr. Bedell says Ms. Power "knows how to organically attract a focused audience," creating a venue for advertisers.


"We are looking for advertisers and brands that want to connect with this targeted segment to use Ashley's ideas to connect with this group," Mr. Bedell says.

"[Still] we're not looking to be so blatant that it is offensive. [Ms. Power] understands how to work with a brand so that it will be accepted by teens. And advertisers will actually own a piece of the relationship, rather than just sponsoring something."

As the Goosehead site spawns other entertainment products, Ms. Power still holds the personal aspect of the business dear. "The whole point of why I started the site is-this is me," she says.

"I know what's going on right now in junior high and high school. I know what it's like to be this age and to just be starting to drive and wondering, `Am I going to get asked to the prom,' " she says. "I also have all the other stress of my job and work and dealing with contracts and people and lawyers and writing books. But I am a teen-ager. That's not something you can just make up or pretend to be."

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