Holiday Specials: Reruns or Refreshed?

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Dec 15, 2010 @ 01:15 PM

This holiday season, there’s no shortage of Christmas tales, old and new, on air for viewing. In my house, old-school renditions of Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman have been wearing out our DVD player. The night before Thanksgiving, the season officially began. Merry Christmas Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda took the holiday milieu out of the suburbs and off to other continents. Later that week, on the hunt for more fodder to fuel our little one’s sugar plum dreams, we ordered Bob the Builder’s Christmas On Demand. And this, I can highly recommend. Bob has a twin brother? And he lives on the North Pole? And the real Elton John performs at the town Christmas celebration? What’s not to love?

My son viewed these new shows in sprinklings, while he took to the oldies as his staples. As my husband and I tend to feel a little retro during this season, we approved. But on our first viewing of this season, we noticed something that didn’t really stick with either of us from our own Christmas-special-filled-childhoods. In Rudolph, Santa isn’t so nice! In fact, we might argue that he’s a bit naughty! Between reindeer who exclude others who are different, an abominable snowman who is outright violent and a merry old man that tells Rudolph he better get rid of that red nose if he ever wants to guide his sleigh, this “classic” version of Christmas fare raised more than a few questions for us. Every few minutes, my son turned to his ruffled parents to say, “that’s not very nice,” or, “why aren’t they letting him play?” In contrast to Bob the Builder, this throw-back raised many more moral dilemmas than we were prepared to address on a cold winter’s night.

Have our new shows become too tame? Is a little fear and perhaps a bit of disillusionment part of the complex Christmas dance? Can Rudolph become a hero who goes down in history without overcoming adversity?Prep

At a recent holiday party, we heard about a new twist on the classic tale of Santa and his Elves, that, admittedly, we missed the first year it aired. But this weekend, cozied up in front of our computer, we watched the latest entry into the holiday special space – and we think it manages to crack the code that so often eludes marketers and creatives – making an old idea fresh without losing its essence. Not surprisingly, John Lassiter of Toy Story fame brought Prep and Landing to ABC, carefully balancing kid-captivating humor with sugar plums for their parents. Prep and Landing looks at the same old Santa story, but through the lens of an elite group of advance elves – charged with making sure “no creatures are stirring” (with the help of a high-tech tot scanner) and that the stockings are hung with a flourish from the fireplace. We won’t give away the ending, but needless to say, the story seamlessly integrates Inspector Gadget-style spy gear with a timeless tale about an elf who tempts the “naughty list.” Ultimately, sweet, sleeping kids catalyze a change of mind in this disheartened elf and all settle down to a silent night.

What’s your favorite holiday reinvention?

Tags: parents, Youth, Teens, TV, tweens

Who Will be the Next Tween Brand?

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Dec 07, 2010 @ 02:56 PM

In the youth space, capturing the tween audience, and doing it for more than a fleeting moment, has become a kind of Holy Grail. Many brands successfully speak to kids with products and brands that play with their need for silly fun. And for brands that have fostered the kind of sixth sense that tells them what teens really want, it’s easier than not to know where this group will go next. But building and growing a tween brand requires more nuanced insights, with execution that goes a bit overboard. This group, who by definition lives between the ease and comfort of childhood and the risk and challenges of the teen years, can be hard to pin down. They’re on the go, but more importantly, they’re a moving target. So how will the next tween brand get it right?

1. They live for tweens. Most tween brands that become craze-worthy have put a stake in the ground – right in tween territory. They combine kid confidence with teen sophistication, andshop justice telegraph to tweens that they care about them above all else. Justice says it right in their name – Just for Girls. 

2. They go big. Tween brands might require intimate insights, but in execution, they need to feel public. Ubiquity isn’t a bad thing to tweens (unlike teens) and being accepted by all – a safe and socially acceptable choice – matters. Tween brands don’t worry about overexposure, but rather hope for it. And tweens reward them by broadcasting their brands. Silly Bandz continue to be a great example of this, as these stretchy bracelets let tweens show off their collections, but also their allegiances to the many brands that have partnered with them (everyone from the NBA to Nickelodeon).

3. They know who they are – and run with it. Tweens brands might be a bit more sophisticated than their kid counterparts, but they don’t mind going a little over the top. Think American Girl…This brand got it right for many reasons, but one was certainly the all-encompassing experience of the brand. Visit the flagship store in any major city and you’ll see for yourself. America Girl stores give not only these sought-after dolls a home, but have their own clothes, salon, Tea Room and the American Girl Revue. It’s like Vegas for the pre-teen set.

4. They take tweens – but not themselves - too seriously.  Finally, tween brands know that the lives of these in-transition youth include serious decisions and dilemmas. But they also know that tweens do not want to talk about it. Instead, tweens seek experience that takes them back to the carefree life they remember from being kids, while giving them more intensity to keep them engaged. Think Nike and the Wii, with the former bringing playful fantasy into hardcore play, and the latter bringing family fun to a whole new level.

So who will be the next big tween brand? It’s hard to predict, but we can guess that they’ll be living by the rules above.

Tags: research, Youth, shopping, tweens