GIRLS MONTH: OPINION - It's different for girls

Growing up in a family with three sisters I remember my mother saying "things were different in my day" and "don't grow up before your time".
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Parents continue to use these lines today; kids will always be kids and girls will definitely always be girls.

There is no denying the difference between boys and girls. In the early years the obvious facts still hold true; blue vs pink, cars vs dolls. As young girls grow up 'friends' and the ‘need to belong’ become key drivers of their identity. They are frequently characterised as reflective, confident, and self aware.

On a day to day basis at Viacom Brand Solutions, the sales house for Nickelodeon, we use our insight and understanding of our audience to formulate successful commercial partnerships.

We have identified a few key gender differences and so how have we used this insight to work with girl-targeted brands?

A key area of focus is technology. Our Circuits of Cool research study highlighted a real difference in how boys and girls engage with technology. Girls want (no, really, really want) to communicate and they have learnt that technology can facilitate this. Boys, on the other hand, are much more interested in the technology itself rather than what comes out at the other end.

Children have embraced technology and often act as the ‘tech champion’ within their household, driving changes in behaviour in the process. This particular insight is gender neutral. Their ‘multi-tasking’ behaviour when it comes to technology offers advertisers a real communication opportunity. TV marketing body, Thinkbox, claim that around three-quarters of nine to 17 year olds actively consume both TV and the internet at the same time. Couple this with Google’s claim that they are reporting significant search spikes around TV content online, and it becomes clear that complementary, cross-platform campaigns are playing a crucial role in reaching these young ‘multi-taskers’.

From a very young age kids are now playing games online, using the internet as an educational tool as well as watching TV content online. For advertisers utilising this brand extension adds depth and interaction to a campaign.

Case Study #1
A female targeted example of this is our Barbie Diamond Castle campaign on Nick Jr. A three-month campaign led by a TV spot directing kids to a dedicated website. On the website girls were reminded to come back every two weeks to play and win. The research showed that girls continued to come back to the website and did not need constant TV reminders whereas we have found that boys tend to want more instant gratification. The research also displayed the brand loyalty and pro activeness of young girls.

Secondly, when talking about kids we can’t get away from the much over-used line that children are getting older, younger, and this is just as salient for girls as boys. So, does this mean that we need to communicate with them as we would do with young women? Not really – it just means we need to understand their needs better. The transition from being a young girl to a modern ‘tween’ is a busy road of discovery. They get excited about teen-targeted products and activities, but are nonetheless reluctant to fully let go of their links to childhood. Role models and role playing are hugely important in this transition, with fairies and princesses being replaced by reality TV and strong girl characters.

Case Study #2
The Bratz Design Academy partnership with Nickelodeon tapped into this transition by producing a Bratz-endorsed TV show. We chose ten girls to live together in a house last summer. The girls were put into ‘friendship pairs’ and had different tasks to complete each week. A website and an in-store promotion supported the show. This show was the top rating show for girls on the channel in November 2008.

It is also important to engage, involve and empower. Connecting with a young audience means venturing into their ‘space’ and appealing to their interests. It is less about imparting information and much more about fostering dialogue. Indeed, many of the best engagement initiatives provide a platform for children to express themselves. Girls are no different in that respect.

Case Study #3
For Cella Fashion, Viacom Brand Solutions created a bespoke solution for girls which offered Nickelodeon viewers a chance to design their own outfit – with the winning design appearing in a Cella advertisement. The entry mechanic allowed entrants not only to ‘dress up’ the Cella Diva on a specially-created microsite, but also to upload the design and enter the competition.

The media landscape has changed dramatically in recent times. It has certainly changed for girls –the emergence of dedicated girlie TV channels and the migration of teen girls from magazines to social networking sites are just two examples. Experiential activity has grown, with new initiatives such as Nick-branded interactive flooring in shopping centres and huge live events like the hugely successful Kids’ Choice Awards, giving advertisers even more opportunities to engage with girls.

However, what hasn’t changed is that the more we understand what makes girls tick, the greater the chance of getting your commercial message to cut through.

At Viacom Brand Solutions we are dedicated to working closely with all brands large and small. TV these days is a very democratic place where the entry cost has fallen considerably, making it accessible to more companies. To enhance this further VBS launched an initiative this year - Force for Enterprise - designed to bring more brands to air. For every pound spent we put a pound’s worth of value in too. So as my mother would say, “What are you waiting for!?”


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