Cracking the Psyche of the Male Teen

After a feature film based on a successful video game series struggled in theaters, a major motion picture studio came to us for help.  The mission was to get in the heads of teen males, and discover why a franchise they had made so successful as a video game could end up underperforming at the box office.

Key Challenges

  • Teen male tastes are notoriously difficult to profile

  • Video game adaptations have had a history of mixed results at the box office


After much discussion, it was decided that focus groups would be most effective.  The ability to talk to teens in a friendly setting, where they could play off their peers, would be a key component to the success of the project.



Talking to teen males in one city alone wasn’t going to get us a broad view we needed. Instead, we spent two weeks on the road, visiting seven cities across the country and speaking to two groups of teen males in each location. We created a friendly environment with couches and popcorn, and used a show-and-tell exercise to keep the conversation flowing and let teens show off some of their favorite advertisements.


It quickly became clear that video games weren’t just a “part of” these teens’ lives. No, games were nearly as integral as water. But it wasn’t just adapting a game that would lead to success, it was using the video game platform to leverage the film. The teens latched onto ideas of advertising within Xbox Live or Playstation Network, setting up TVs that loop trailers in video game stores, or tying trailers into video games themselves as extras. It was also evident that traditional advertising is often missed by teen males. Thinking outside the box and quickly grabbing their attention with something unique and eye catching was identified as a key component to success. 

The Final Results

We ended up with an incredibly in-depth view of the always-elusive teen male audience and how they approach movie advertising and advertising in general. The findings helped to shape the studio’s future initiatives when tasked with appealing to a young male demographic.



A New Horizon for an Established Network

A well-established cable network was about to enter a new era – original programming. They had a new series but their own internal response was mixed. The idea was extremely unique and there were numerous marketing problems, which some felt would fail to mesh with the network’s new image as a whole. Before the show aired, they needed help in making it a good fit.

Key Challenges

  • Central topic of the show was unlike anything else the network had ever aired
  • The stars were unknown and the setting was unusual and looked to be problematic


The first step was to get a read on how the network is perceived. Who are the avid watchers? How do they define the network? Are they ready for a change, or committed to the status quo? We found that the perceived challenges were very real. For this network with an older following, people seemed resistant to something new, making the prospect of success even more dubious.


Given all of the moving parts, there were dozens of ways the show could be presented to audiences. We tackled them all, presenting people with options that focused on the dramatic side of things, the personal side of things, the more intense side of things, and a detailed look at a setting unfamiliar to most. We found that people wanted the personal stories, were satisfied with just a touch of setting, and found the pedigree of the show’s creators to be very impressive. They weren’t looking for the show to be something it wasn’t, and the advertising campaign thus knew to embrace the program for what it was.


After assessing the network’s core audience and focusing on those viewers in particular, it was clear how the advertising would best be able to convince them to invest in something new. Encouragingly, we saw that the same tactics worked for non-viewers of the network, meaning that advertising via other channels could potentially bring in an entirely new group of viewers.


The Final Results

Using the findings of the study, the network created an ad campaign that hit all of the major touchpoints while avoiding the major pitfalls. The show went on to become an instant success, bringing the network a new stream of viewers, paving the way for future original series, and even earning Emmy attention along the way.

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