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Nov 08, 2001
Case Study

Teens Send 25 Million Messages to Warner Bros. Records Instant Messaging Ad Campaign

SUMMARY: Back in the summer of 1987, music industry marketers turned an unknown teenager named Tiffany into a top selling star by going to where the teens were -- shopping malls.

14 summers later, Betty Lin, a marketer at Warner Bros. Records (WBR), had the exact same challenge. WBR had just signed a completely unknown 14 year old girl singer and Lin had to make her so famous before her first album came out, that it would sell like hotcakes.

Lin's job was to help make Pagano so famous before her first album came out, that it would sell like crazy. But how do you create a household name before you even have an album to promote?


Two things can make the difference between fame and ignominy -- incredible luck and really smart marketing. Lin had both.

The luck happened because this summer AOL (of which WBR happens to be a subsidiary) was producing a new TV commercial directed at the heart of teen America, and they wanted a song as background for it. WBR's PR team campaigned for Pagano's newly recorded single. AOL liked the song so much they went one step further, the commercial actually showed two girls chatting with each other about Pagano.

Next, Lin started researching where cool teenage girls hang out these days. The Internet was obvious -- 73% of American kids ages 12-17 are online. But Lin needed to come up with a tactic beyond the cookie-cutter pop-star Web site. Then she learned that, according to a June 2001 study by The Pew Internet & American Life Project (link below) 74% of these teens have enthusiastically embraced instant messaging. 13 million teens have at least one or more instant messaging accounts, and that number grows daily.

In fact teens today use instant messaging just like they used to use malls in the 1980's. They hang out with friends, make dates, learn what's cool … and 13% of them have even used instant messages to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend! Pagano herself is absolutely typical of her peers -- she loves to instant message her friends and sister.

So with Pagano's permission, Lin decided to create an instant messaging marketing campaign, called "LindsayBuddy." She used the services of ActiveBuddy, a company that specializes in creating instant messaging campaigns, to build and maintain it. They also handled the copywriting for the campaign, with Pagano's input, because you really need to be an expert to get the tone, acronyms and wording right when you're copywriting for teens in the instant messaging format. (Sample below.)

LindsayBuddy was launched August 28th on AOL's Instant Messaging platform (AIM.) To access it for free, AIM users just add the name LindsayBuddy to their buddy list. Then they can instant message questions and even have a conversation of sorts with the Buddy just like they could with a human. LindsayBuddy is pre-programmed for a variety of questions about Lindsay Pagano, such as what her favorite food is. Plus it can also be used to learn more about cool new movies, get new downloads, to play hangman, and even to check your horoscope.

Lin started by promoting LindsayBuddy in a really low-key way -- she issued a press release, sent an internal email to WBR staff to check it out, and asked ActiveBuddy to mention it to the users of their own SmarterChild buddy.

Usage began to grow rapidly, mainly through viral word of mouth (or word of buddy!) Then in early October, Lin again lucked out. AOL's AIM division noticed the buzz LindsayBuddy was generating in the teen population and voluntarily added a free promo for the buddy on the home page of the AIM section. Lin says, "They were really into it."


Within 60 days, 430,000 people added LindsayBuddy to…

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… their buddy lists. But, these kids don't just add the Buddy, they really, really use it -- so far they've exchanged an astonishing 25,653,170 messages with LindsayBuddy. Now that's building a brand relationship!

Currently LindsayBuddy gets 346,664 average messages per day from an average of 16,699 visits per day.

In the meantime, although she still doesn't have an album out, and only recently shot a music video, Lindsay Pagano's single "Everything U R" has sold 42,000 copies. The single was #9 on the Sound Scan Chart the week of September 26th even before AOL AIM began actively promoting the Buddy. Then it hit #8 on Billboard's Hot Singles Chart in the last week of October.

That's proof of Internet branding turning into offline revenues.

Lindsay Pagano's site (where you can also download LindsayBuddy)

Link to Pew Teen Study Info:


SAMPLE CONVERSATION WITH THE BUDDY: (Note: "Sherpa" is not our real AIM buddy name, so don't try to contact us with it.)

Sherpa: hi
LindsayBuddy: This is LindsayBuddy, built by ActiveBuddy, Inc.

:-) Nice to see u again, ELenzner. What can i do for u?

Have u checked out everything i can do yet? Type "home"!

Sherpa: home
LindsayBuddy: Welcome home, ELenzner! :-)

i like to chat about my friend Lindsay. Here are the things i do:

about lindsay
lindsay's album

Please type something from the list.

Sherpa: about lindsay
LindsayBuddy: Here's some info about my friend Lindsay Pagano:

Lindsay Pagano is not an everyday teenager and her Warner Bros. Records debut, "Love & Faith & Inspiration," is not your typical teen-pop album either.

Sherpa: when is lindsay's album coming out?
LindsayBuddy: Lindsay's debut album, "Love & Faith & Inspiration," is coming out in 2002. The release date for the single "Everything U R" is August 28th.

Would u like to buy "Everything U R" online?

Sherpa: yes please
LindsayBuddy: "Love & Faith & Inspiration" will be released in early 2002.

Would u like me to show u where u can buy the first single,
"Everything U R"?

Sherpa: are you sassy?
LindsayBuddy: Maybe. How can i really be sure?

Sherpa: good question
LindsayBuddy: ;-)
See Also:

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