Mitchell Talks to Teens

NEW YORK Does cause marketing work with a demographic that doesn’t want to be singled out in advertising? John Paul Mitchell Systems thinks so. The Beverly Hills, Calif.-based haircare company will launch its first teen-focused ad campaign, and philanthropy, not product, will be front-and-center.

Mitchell-sponsored athletes, students and celebrities are featured in the print campaign discussing their individual talents and charities of choice. Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis and surfer Holly Beck support the Waterkeeper Alliance, and extreme freestyle skier T.J. Schiller champions American Forests.

Mitchell students include Rachel Burney, an activist for Invisible Children (raising awareness for those in Northern Uganda), and drummer Matt Fine champions American Forests. His ad proclaims, “Trees rock!”

The company has a long history of philanthropy, but has never really promoted its efforts. “Philanthropy and charitable efforts are important to today’s teens so we thought this was a good way to target them,” said Nanette Bercu, svp, creative. “It was important to us to have a diverse group of people with different interests and passions in the campaign, rather than just using models.”

The ads are slated to run in Teen Vogue, Seventeen and CosmoGirl beginning in September, and seven sports magazines, including Surfer and Skateboarder, beginning in October. The campaign will run through winter. The effort is being handled in-house. Spend was not disclosed. Mitchell spent $17 million on ads in 2006, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Support includes a Web site launching Aug. 15. Mitchell also will tour college campuses and sports marketing events where it will host “cut-a-thons.” Proceeds will go to featured charities.

Teen experts agree that cause marketing, when done properly, works well with any demographic, but particularly with today’s teens. “Connecting with teens on another level about something that is important to them is smart,” said Tina Wells, CEO at Buzz Marketing Group, Voorhees, N.J. “It’s expected in the minds of teens that brands are being responsible and supporting charitable causes so this type of campaign speaks to them.”

Radha Subramanyam, vp, research and planning at MTV Networks’ Kids and Family Group, New York, added that the changes in the world are touching teens personally: “While this group has grown up with more financial comfort than past generations, the actions and consequences of previous generations are something they will have to live with so they are more involved in causes than past generations.”

However, she stressed the creative must be good and that “the brand must offer quality products and must live up to the merits of its projects.”