Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London's a Real Dream for Teens; Last Weekend's Underage Festival Is Just One Event in the Capital Aimed Specifically at Teenagers. Jasmine Gardner Reveals How Big Brands Are Desperately Seeking the Facebook Generation

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London's a Real Dream for Teens; Last Weekend's Underage Festival Is Just One Event in the Capital Aimed Specifically at Teenagers. Jasmine Gardner Reveals How Big Brands Are Desperately Seeking the Facebook Generation

Article excerpt

Byline: Jasmine Gardner

ON PAPER, 10,000 teenagers descending on east London's Victoria Park would have looked like every parent's nightmare. But last Sunday morning, without their parents (who weren't allowed in) the hordes headed for this year's Underage Festival. They donned their perfectly planned festival outfits, grabbed a pair of the freebie Tango orange sunglasses being handed out and, in unison, the mass of 14- to 18-year-olds pulsated to tunes thrashed out by their favourite bands.

It was the kind of event that London's teens of years gone by could only dream of. And by all accounts, it was a great success. "Awesomeeeeeeeeeeee," writes Bex McKinley on the festival's Facebook page in response to the "thanks for coming" message posted by the organisers. "Crystal Castles were absolutely crazy. i feel so ill hahah." says Poppy Wilson while Grace Smythers enthuses: "We were at the front on hadouken. i nearly died. it was sooo good."

But make no mistake, the all-round seal of approval from teens eager to announce their "like" for the event should not for a second suggest that this group of under-18s is easy to please. Because today's tech-savvy teens are so linked up, so well informed and so on-the-ball that they demand far more from their entertainment than ever -- and London is doing everything it can to keep up.

It's not just about commercial branding and music festivals. Thanks to its wealth of theatres and galleries, London has courses and workshops (from creating portraits at the National Portrait Gallery to "from page to stage" workshops at the Old Vic) for secondary school-aged children.

Courses are often free, leaving teens to spend their pocket money on clothes. And with London's plethora of markets and vintage stores -- from Brick Lane to Portobello -- and of course Primark, they are forever dressed in trendy outfits that cost less than a tenner.

"Teens are in a position of power, because they have grown up with social media and computers," says James Layfield, head of The Lounge, a London youth marketing agency that has conducted extensive research into the social lives of teenagers. "They can get more out of life because they are more aware of everything that is happening.

They can be at one event in Covent Garden while receiving pictures uploaded by a friend somewhere else. It's a life of 'augmented reality' with an additional level to it."

What Layfield and The Lounge discovered -- and what no parent will be surprised to read -- is that teenagers conduct their social lives primarily and wholeheartedly through Facebook.

It's where they develop and alter their identities, join groups that interest them and stay in touch with their favourite bands, brands and products. As a result, every brand out there is vying for their attention, seeing, as Layfield puts it, "the long-term value of young consumers. Brands really do want to get under the skin of these teens, because if they do, then they can make a lot of money".

This is the reason we now have brands such as O2 and Orange doubling up as entertainment companies, sponsoring music arenas and half-price cinema tickets. And why Red Bull, one of the teens' most popular fan pages, pulls stunts such as Formula 1 pit-stops in Parliament Square.

But it's not an easy job. "In London teenagers are overwhelmed with opportunities," says Layfield. "There is something happening every minute of every day that they could go to, often for free, but the hardest part is to get them out of their bedrooms in the first place. Because of the internet, a lot of them are a lot less imaginative than they might once have been. …

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