NEW YORK Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi has revamped its kids marketing unit with a broader focus and stronger ties to the agency's account planning department.
Adene Van der Walt, a planner by trade, and creative director Pete Johnson will lead Youth Connection, with input from planning executives Fran Cooke and Peri Shaplow. The group reports to Saatchi's strategic planning chief Sandy Thompson, and its ranks will expand and contract according to client needs.
"Youth is not about age. It's an attitude," said Thompson. "By capturing the creative, can-do-anything attitude of today's youth, we will not only create stronger connections with America's youth, but change the way marketers are currently thinking about them." Youth Connection's mission is to go beyond trend spotting to observe children, tweens and teenagers in their environments and understand how they feel and interact with others, including mothers, Thompson said.
Some planners, for example, will achieve that by spending a month hanging out with kids and their moms. "You're completely immersed," said Cook.
The "Xplor" process, as Saatchi calls it, "brings the emotion, understanding and empathy to the client's knowledge base," Cook added. Saatchi's previous Kid Connection unit was more autonomous and led by an account management executive.
Created in 1989, the unit essentially dissolved after the walkout of 17 staffers from Saatchi in February 2005. All but one of the staffers worked on General Mills, for which Kid Connection did most of its work.
General Mills, for which Saatchi handles brands such as Lucky Charms, Fruit by the Foot and Go-Gurt, is Youth Connection's first client.