Youth advertising? Just cool it

Advertisers have always found it difficult to target 16- to 24- year-olds - but where Levi's has led, others are now following. Meg Carter reports

A violent storm lashes the bows of a tiny fishing boat. Pitched into the sea, our semi-naked hero sinks to the seabed. Suddenly, three beautiful mermaids surround him, examining his body, kissing and caressing him. Noticing the red tab on his jeans, they try to tug them off. Just in time, he regains consciousness and swims to the surface. The commercial, which broke on ITV last week, is the latest from the world's leading youth marketer: Levi's.

Winning over the 16- to 24 year-old age group is, arguably, the advertising world's greatest challenge. Every young generation believes it is misunderstood by its parents' generation and today's Generation X is no different. Which is why other advertisers eager to appeal to younger consumers observe each new instalment in Levi's multi-million-pound advertising campaign with awe. The sign of a true master, you see, is - while not appearing young or cool - defining the very essence of cool itself.

"Young people today will see around 140,000 different ads between the ages of four and 18," says Joe Staton, futures director at Ammirati Puris Lintas, the agency behind Peperami's "It's a little bit of an animal" campaign. "Yet Advertising Association research shows interest in advertising is at an all-time low."

Young people are being bombarded with an ever-increasing array of media choices. Do-it-yourself culture proliferates. And traditional trust in and reverence for media owners is in dramatic decline.

Advertising alone just doesn't work any more, Staton concedes. "Brand idea" is what really counts. Get this right and you can exploit it in a wide variety of ways. Which is why, as well as Peperami advertising, there's an Internet site (content includes "vegetable porn"), a Peperami computer game, a dance record and a range of merchandising, even Peperami sausage perfume.

Such an approach is also championed by HHCL. You may have seen its ads for Tango. A recent one for Lemon Tango featured "the cult of Jim" whose chanting "worshippers" appear with toy dogs mounting their legs. Pot Noodle's current "camcorder-style" advertising campaign features Terry, a Welshman campaigning against the brand, and Ned, who dresses up as a Pot Noodle.

But did you know you've only seen one-tenth of the iceberg? Thousands have rung Tango telephone lines used as part of the campaign; others have bought limited-edition Orange Man toys.

Meanwhile, a range of Ned-inspired promotional products has been launched by the agency, along with a fan club for Terry called the League Against Fibrous Lies. A membership pack and campaign materials have been distributed to hundreds of students.

Today's youth are connoisseurs rather than mere recipients of communications, Staton believes. "If it's bollocks - they'll spot it instantly." Get it right, however, and they'll keep coming back for more: sales of alcopop Hooper's Hooch, for example, reached 2 million units a day within a couple of months of the launch.

Tone and style are critical. But pity the advertiser who thinks this means cashing in on the latest style or cultural trend. "Marketing and advertising is primarily run by baby-boomers, but Generation X grew up in a different time, they can see through it if you pretend to be one of them," Bednash warns.

Not everyone, however, is convinced. "We don't trust what industry research tells us young people are watching on TV," Bednash says. "Their viewing habits change so quickly." Take soap operas: which do you think is currently the hottest among 16 to 24s?

"Our findings suggest Emmerdale - despite it having the lowest total TV ratings of the big four."

It's a tricky balancing act. Try and ride the contemporary cultural wave too soon, and you'll find it hard to persuade an advertiser to part with its money - for fear of getting it wrong. Catch it too late and you are passe even before you hit the TV screenn

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Guru Careers: Business Analyst / Digital Business Analyst

£50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Analyst / Digital Bus...

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales

£30 - 40k (£65k Y1 OTE Uncapped): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Deve...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power