Verizon Seeks New Way to Woo Teens

Verizon Wireless has asked three shops to pitch ideas this month for a product or service aimed at the youth market, sources said.

With growth in the segment maxing out, mobile carriers are increasingly turning to teens, preteens and young adults to derive incremental revenue. The youth market has become one of the most sought-after demographics, due in large part to its discretionary income, tech savviness and enthusiasm for non-voice services, such as text messaging and games, said Linda Barrabee, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston. Plus, “the lifetime value proposition can’t be underestimated,” she said.

The shops vying for the assignment, according to sources, are Interpublic Group’s Lowe in New York, the client’s main wireless shop; IPG’s GlobalHue in Detroit, also a roster shop; and LevyTenny, the shop launched in January by Rich Levy, who previously steered creative on Verizon Wireless at Bozell. The client did not return calls.

The nature of the assignment up for grabs could not be determined. Verizon Wireless promotes teen-centric offerings that include FreeUp, a prepaid phone service, and Get It Now, which lets users download applications such as ring tones, games and e-mails.

The client, which spent $730 million on U.S. measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, has emphasized the clarity of its network in its “Test Man” advertising. But that selling proposition may not resonate with youth, said Adam Guy, also senior analyst with The Yankee Group.

“It doesn’t sink into the neurology of teens,” he explained. “The way to their hearts and wallets is through their music, entertainment, TV and sports affiliations.”

Other mobile carriers have taken note. Nextel and Sprint PCS, for instance, have linked up with youth- oriented companies (Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, respectively) to offer sub-brands aimed directly at that market.