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Cracking the Psyche of the Teen Male


  • 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

Creating a Plan

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.

Hitting the Road

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.

Making Sense of it All

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.

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