We’re about to find out next Saturday at the Tween Girl Town Hall as 150 girls age 8-14 clamor for FREE swag bags and freebie finds from sponsors eager to hear their points of view.
Hosted by marketing consultancy and tween social networking site AllyKatzz.com, creator of the inaugural Tween Summit (photo gallery here) which premiered in Washington D.C. this past year (next one in NYC Oct. 2010) the inevitable question is obvious…
Is this a case of the fox guarding the henhouse? After all, AllyKatzz is a marketing research/online community of tween specialists.
If they’re probing the issues and implications of what’s on kids’ minds, then repackaging the outcome of the event as a deliverable to others interested in this demographic, it appears there should be bells ringing in loud clanging ‘aha!’ media literacy monetization moments…And to a degree, they are. But here’s why it feels different to me…
Like the YPulse 2010 Youth Marketing Mashup forum, AllyKatzz is striving to bring together all sides of the media mix, from philanthropy and social change to sponsors eager to influence this same target market…The way I see it, it’s as much about elevating kids’ spirits, confidence, and inner compass as it is elevating the brands tied to the event itself. There are avenues of opportunity to make this a win-win if we’re all transparent and crystal clear about motivations and outcomes.
The Tween Town Hall is FREE thanks to sponsorship…but let’s think about the entire concept of free.
What is FREE? And WHY is it free? How does it become ‘free?’ These are the questions we should be using as life lessons with the tweens attending. Example:
Google’s helpfulness is usually perceived as FREE vital info, as well as benign, but one could argue it’s neither…for you’re actually giving away your behavioral data to ad servers targeting your preferences. It’s seamless, so we don’t SEE it as making much of an intrusion (particularly kids we talk with who have been raised on Google as a verb, not a corporate entity) though the media literacy question becomes:
Is Google worth giving up your search terms and digital footprint to glean the data YOU need fast and FREE?
Many of us who use Google think so. (although as the company becomes more and more mega-powerful and monopoly terms get tossed into play, we may see some of the shine rub off the youth perception) Point? Sponsorship, support and collaboration can give a corporate social responsibility entity (or nonprofit/for-profit) the ‘umpf’ it needs to really take hold and take off.
Similarly, industry leaders like MobileYouth.org, the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup and now AllyKatzz Tween Town Hall have the opportunity to uncork a two-way dialogue to empower tweens rather than consume them…
This makes a huge difference to me when it comes to assessing a win-win.
…SciGirls debunks the nerdology myths of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and unveils the uber-cool smart girl stance that propels innovation and education into new thinking…green machines…humanity and STEM resources aligned to make a difference.
I’m a ‘sponsor’ (albeit out of pocket, personally) to help fund ShopGirls, nine teens who will be the first ever all girls eco-car team participating in the Shell Oil eco-marathon at month’s end to turn the word ‘shop’ away from malls and toward mechanical engineering.
Without sponsorships like these, the projects and programming like this would never come to fruition much less be offered FREE. So every event who is sponsoring and supporting each and every event, as well as the ‘why’ to be able to discern the motivation and assess individual credibility in terms of how it lands on us as ‘consumers’ of goods and services. (one of the reasons I’ve never been wild about the CCFC name (re: camp.commercial free childhood) I love the work, but strongly feel there are commercial supporters that can enhance as well as scale both nonprofit/for-profit entities to a higher good)
TeaPartyAngels.org which puts the fun in fundraising with mother-daughter events to benefit underprivileged girls around the world! Can’t wait to hear more about their work and where we can overlap to support one another…
Another? NetSmartz.org’s teen division NSTeens to deploy cybersafety with advocacy by raising awareness of bullying online and giving tweens the tools to navigate the complexities with media literacy and savvy.
And one of my favorites of all? HangProud: It’s a global community of girls and women focusing on unique beauty and individual strengths to use personal power to make a difference in the world. LOVE this concept, tonality, stance and purpose.
To be sure, other sponsors, from Dove Go Fresh to Daisy Rock Guitars are directly selling tweens on their offerings and this is where one has to place faith in the integrity of the host to discern which marketers pass muster in terms of less toxic inclusions in brandwashing or mining behavioral and developmental motivations.
Why does it matter ‘who’s in charge?’ Trust. Pure and simple.
Media literacy muckraker that I suppose I am, I interviewed Denise Restauri, founder of AllyKatzz.com and AK Tween long before she was ramping up for her successful tween summit, asking pointblank whether she wasn’t perhaps just ‘tweenwashing’ and digital data mining under the guise of social change and girls being heard…I think the progression of her event focus speaks worlds…and I’m looking forward to the ALLY awards as one of the highlights for worldchanging youths…delivering on that promise.
It’s extremely important to me that an agenda aimed at deep diving into kids’ brains isn’t focused on gleaning ‘usable data’ as much as a concerted effort to empower girls rather than consume them…
We’ll see. Eyes and ears (and mind) are fully open on this…
As you may recall, KidsHealth.org’s Debra Moffitt (of the Pink Locker Society book series about girls/puberty) reported for Shaping Youth from the Tween Summit in D.C. when I couldn’t make it across the country last round. Debra captured the spirit of the summit with unabashed candor and I’m hoping Lara (my 12-year old protege) will help me do the same.
Denise Restauri has surrounded herself with some of the top girl advocacy leaders in this genre who command respect by their zealous passion to ‘right the wrongs’ of societal and marketing missteps…
For example, to debunk much of the magic magazine allure, using media as the distribution channel to counter some of the most toxic messaging, Denise tapped body positive and self-esteem expert Jess Weiner as the MC for both the summit and the Town Hall…Jess works hard unveiling beauty myths and hitting the reset button on young girls’ self-perception, but she has an ironic forum for outreach…as a columnist for Seventeen Magazine.
Likewise, our own Shaping Youth content partner, Rosalind Wiseman will be speaking at the event March 13, on a pitstop from her national Girl World Tour, will be discussing relational aggression (Mean Girls was based on her newly updated book Queen Bees & Wannabes) and premiering her first ever YA fiction novel: Boys, Girls and other Hazardous Materials which I interviewed her about bringing youth editors into the YA kidlit process.
Looking at the girl agenda, and the quality of sessions and discussions brewing in the parent agenda, the Town Hall meeting has definitely got my interest enough to fly down for the event to ‘cover it’ on a press pass, AND to bring my ‘tween’ 12-year old goddaughter in tow, as a bit of a ‘mole’ to help decipher perception and reality when it comes to overheard conversations, motivations and issues kids are dealing with growing up ‘tween’ today.
Like a clueless schmoozer at a bigwig gig, I depend on my tween advisory board to tip me off to ‘who’s who and what’s what’ when it comes to media and marketing mindshare in the pop culture zeitgeist, because frankly, I’m an analyst more than a consumer of a large majority of what’s being served up to ‘tweens.’
Twelve year old Lara (who also helped me out at the Disney Nature Premiere of Earth) is like having a CIA BlueTooth earpiece whispering strategically in my ear “that’s so and so, known for such and such” which REALLY helps me navigate the crowd and help me ask pointed questions rather than generic ones.
Lara is also my ace in the hole when it comes to celebrity-starstruck stuff, since she lives in L.A. and is exposed to all kinds of local mediaisms and blowback that’s totally off my radar. (Any AllyKatzz girls want to help me out as interns for nonprofit service credit for school? Leave a comment on the blog and I’ll send you an app!)
I’m most excited about the ALLY award, honoring youth engaged in incredible projects for social change advancing the planet and ‘kid culture’ (their top ten awe-inspiring ‘actionists’ as Jess Weiner would say, have formed their own non-profits and are taking it upon themselves as the leaders of today to advance us all toward tomorrow!)
At the AllyKatzz Tween Town Hall Meeting:
Code Blue Foundation of Mitchellville, MD, Cupcakes for Cancer of Solvang, CA, Green Youth Movement of Beverly Hills, CA, Kids Helping Kids of Brentwood, CA, Kids Who Care Foundation of Irvine, CA, One Is Greater Than None of Merrick, NY and Step by Step of Kentfield, CA.
“CertifiK.A.T.’s of Appreciation” will also be awarded that day to Megan Kilroy of Team Marine, CA, Alexandra Rose Rieger of In a Perfect World, CA and Emerald Angel-Young of Tea Party Angels, NY and Johna Rivers of Actionist (R) Network, CA for their efforts within larger organizations.
Denise Restauri said:
“These tweens and teens highlight the very best of what youth today stands for. They had the insight, the compassion, the courage, the willingness, and ultimately the commitment to stand up, speak out, and lead others by spearheading their own charities or making an impact on a larger non-profit.
I am so thrilled to honor them and look forward to expanding the reach of the A.L.L.Y. Awards as well as the CertifiK.A.T.’s of Appreciation at future AK Tweens events. We are forming a Network of philanthropic youth.” —Denise Restauri
I fully intend to share some of our own alliances with them as well, from the entrepreneurial powerhouses at Teens Turning Green to DigiGirlz and cool new STEM programs for preteens, to sports opportunities (from Pretty Tough and Women Talk Sports to Olympic greats Title IV champions)…as well as interviewing some of UCLA’s female athletes.
Also read where they’re tying in a new DenimMessaging ™ project to spread goodwill by bringing in jeans to donate to the homeless (after turning them inside out for the tweens to decorate the legs with words of hope and inspiring phrases)…
This reminds me of that Emotional Armor tee company I wrote about during the All Things Girl Series where people literally wore their ‘power’ on their sleeve in subtle reminder words of wisdom…Kind of a Sisterhood of the Travelin’ Pants meets Homeless Youth outreach.
Innovative. This is where I want to get a good handle on ‘who, what, how, what’s resonating, etc.’ and tie it into some youth media filmmakers using cameras to make a documentary difference on the streets of L.A. too —Like youth film producer Callie Butts’ new movie Spare Some Change, who I’ll hopefully be interviewing down there as well.
Without further ado, here are some of the movers and shakers showing up at the Town Hall meeting as speakers…
Let me know who we should interview and where you’d like the conversation to go, as I see MANY opportunities here to glean some incredible insights on best practices for shifting the media message to more positive turf and using listening skills to do so…
As for the sponsorship and media/marketing element which makes this tween event FREE?
Well, again, I’d argue that nothing in life is ‘free’…
Just as we give up some of our privacy to ‘play with a free app or a quiz’ on Facebook, or are being served digital ads on Google, one must way the ‘price’ of freedom. For me? The Town Hall’s FREE pass is well worth the recon. Hope to see you there! I’ll be live tweeting some of it via @ShapingYouth.
Here’s a peek at the first ever tween summit from this past fall to give you a flavor of what to expect at the UCLA March 13, 2010 Tween Town Hall…
Articles From Shaping Youth’s All Things Girl Series:
More About AK Tween Town Hall: Mar 13, 2010
AK Tweens Announces Dove go fresh Deodorant and Matching Body Mist as Premier Sponsor of AllyKatzz Tween Town Hall Meeting (pdf)
AK Tweens Announces the AllyKatzz Tween Town Hall Meeting (pdf)