Some of my favorite Ad Council campaigns to work on are those that target teens. In my career prior to joining the Ad Council, I founded a teen culture blog and conference and have worked for a few different non-profits and media companies in the youth space. So when the opportunity to work on our Teen Dating Violence Prevention campaign came up, I was excited to contribute. It also gave us the chance to leverage platforms, partners and influencers that we never have before for our campaigns.
Teen dating abuse continues to be a huge problem in the United States with over 1.5 million high school students experiencing physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. With teens spending so much time online and on their phones, there’s an increasing need to help teens build healthy “digital” relationship skills and teach them that controlling behavior online or on mobile devices can be a form of abuse.
To educate teens about what constitutes digital abuse and empower them to draw their digital line, Futures Without Violence and the Ad Council just launched our mobile first “That’s Not Cool” campaign featuring a mobile web app called Cool Not Cool where teens can weigh in on common teen dating scenarios by swiping their phones to indicate whether the situation is cool or crosses a digital line.
Here’s what we learned along the way.
Have a clear, specific goal
We set out to create a digital tool teens could use to learn what’s cool or not in a dating relationship. We wanted teens who may not be familiar with our campaign to discover the tool and we wanted the current and future That’s Not Cool teen ambassadors to share the tool as a way to spread the word. Having such a specific goal guided us through the creative development process and helped keep us focused on what we were creating.
Know your target demographic their “technographics”
If you are creating anything for teens, unless it’s a console game, it should be mobile first. Assume video will be viewed within the Facebook or YouTube apps on a smartphone. According to the Pew Center for Internet and American Life, three quarters of teens own or have access to a smartphone and that’s fueling the trend of teens going online “constantly.” In addition, 58 percent of teens have mobile apps and several studies report teens saying they couldn’t live without their phones. We also know that teens love gaming and gamification–88 percent of teens say they “game” (Nielsen). And while Cool Not Cool isn’t a game per se, it has an element of “playing along” by deciding whether a scenario is cool or not and then seeing what your peers thought as well.
Be where they are
If you build it, will they come? Teens have so many media choices it’s dizzying, so when thinking about our promotion strategy for Cool Not Cool, we wanted to be where teens are already. Kik Messenger is a relatively new messaging platform with over 200 million users. It is hugely popular with teens–in fact 40 percent of U.S. youth aged 13 to 25 use Kik. So it made sense to partner with the service to promote our app and to build it to be Kik optimized. We also produced a set of related stickers, which are popular with Kik’s user base.
We know that for this audience YouTube is replacing TV and YouTube stars are bigger than traditional celebrities. Awesomeness TV star Meghan Rienks, who is part of the Ad Council’s new Creators for Good program, has embraced this campaign and created a video about Cool Not Cool app for her teen-heavy audience.
By staying focused on our goal, being “mobile first” and promoting our campaign where teens are already, we hope to reach teens and help them to identify healthy dating behaviors.