'Letting Go' Works for Learning About Kids

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Strangely, Julie Halpin, CEO of WPP Group's Geppetto Group, says her undergraduate studies in French aided her understanding of the intricacies of marketing to children.

Ms. Halpin says an open mind and "letting go of thinking you know everything" are essential components of both learning a new language and successful marketing to children.

"In learning any foreign language, there's a respect and a willingness to let go of your way of doing things," says 35-year-old Ms. Halpin.

"With kids' marketing there's always room for deeper thinking and analysis," she contends. "I've always been fascinated by other cultures and other ways of communication. In a way, that's what kids' marketing is about. It challenges the way we think."

Set up Geppetto
In September, Ms. Halpin was tapped by WPP Group to help set up Geppetto -- the holding company's newly formed youth-marketing agency. She took a chance in leaving her former position, senior VP-general manager of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide's Kid Connection, but says she couldn't pass up the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Ms. Halpin says that with Geppetto she could "focus on something I love" while "creating the environment" from scratch, without having a big-agency structure over her head.

Ms. Halpin brings 13 years of youth-marketing experience to Geppetto. Her first exposure to children's advertising was working on the M&M/Mars account in 1984 while in client services at Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. She then moved to Saatchi in 1986 to work on the agency's General Mills business. While working on General Mills as VP-management supervisor, she was tapped by top management to be a founding member of Kid Connection, in 1992.

Ms. Halpin is a volunteer advisory board member of the ad industry's self-regulatory group, Children's Advertising Review Unit.

"Kids can't deduce and discern the way adults do, so we have to be responsible," says Ms. Halpin.

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