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How Seventeen reaches out to it’s teenage audience, one immersive summer experience at a time

Hearst’s Seventeen magazine is building on a program it launched a year ago, after finding success with The Seventeen Fashion Experience. The program is a fashion summer camp for junior and high school students, that not only functions as a revenue stream, but allows the magazine media brand to stay in touch with and learn from its teenage audience.

“We know girls are interested in fashion, we know they're interested in Seventeen,” explained Joey Bartolomeo, executive editor at Seventeen magazine. “The Fashion Experience is a way to bring girls to New York and LA to find out about business.” 

 

 
Joey Bartolomeo headshot ()
 

Joey Bartolomeo / Photo: Naomi Nishi

The Experience participants are interested in not only fashion, but business, Bartolomeo explained. “They want to know about how things work, how people succeed, and a lot of them ask us ‘how did you get to where you are in your career?’”

The Fashion Experience was the perfect opportunity for Seventeen to reach out to their readers, to their target audience, in partnership with WestCoast Connection, and to advertisers and fashion brands, too. “We have connections with all of these different companies that also are excited to meet the girls and talk to them and find out what they’re interested in,” she said

Immersive experience

The Seventeen 360 Student Travel Fashion Experience began last year in partnership with WestCoast Connection. For two weeks, girls aged 13-18 from all over the country (and other countries, too) would come to New York, to meet and learn from Seventeen editors, photographers, stylists and executives, to learn about Seventeen’s visual direction and the process of publishing an issue.

 

 

“For the most part, because it's called the Seventeen Fashion Experience, they're obviously fans of Seventeen and interested in fashion in a range of ways,” Bartolomo said. “Some of them want to be journalists, some of them are interested in fashion design, some of them are interested in magazine design and photography.”

Participants would also meet executives, take part in lectures and workshops, learn beauty techniques used in fashion shoots, and take tours of fashion brands and partners in New York including Guess, Henri Bendel, Sakroots, H&M, DKC Public Relations, and The Edit by Seventeen/Kahn Lucas, among others. And on weekends, they would get to experience New York City,  including taking a harbour tour, seeing a Broadway show, strolling along Fifth Avenue, and taking a ride on a Coney Island ferris wheel.

The student tour ran for two weeks this summer, twice. The first session ran July 10-23, and the second ran July 24 – Aug. 6.

And, because the 2016 pilot program in New York was such a success, Seventeen decided to expand the program to Los Angeles in 2017, offering a 28-day Seventeen Fashion Experience for teens, “an all-access pass to everything fashion” – covering the ins and outs of Seventeen and behind the scenes tours of fashion brands in Southern California, with visits to partners including Chaser, Chinese Laundry, Guess, The Brand Agency (fashion PR firm), Hurley, Walker Drawas (celebrity stylists), Yoobi and Skechers, among others.

 

 

Learning went both ways

One of the benefits of speaking to, working with, and touring teens around New York City for two weeks was the opportunity to get to know them better, according to Bartolomeo. Speaking with campers, at times, functioned like a mini-focus group, she said.

“We get so many ideas from them, because it really helps us stay on top of what girls right now are interested in, even in terms of where they like to shop, who they follow on social media, how they spend their time, but also about issues that really concern them,” she said. “We had a whole conversation about body shaming. So, it's really nice for us to have that conversation face to face with our readers.”

Having face-to-face interactions with teens helps Seventeen think about editorial for the future. 

After meeting with the Fashion Experience participants last year, there were takeaways from those conversations that influenced the editorial content Bartolomeo put into Seventeen print editions, she said.

“It's so valuable to hear from them and to be able to really be able to focus on certain things they tell us and make it something we work on in the future,” she said. “And, for our publishing side as well; they also meet with the girls and they really get a lot of information they can use and go out and talk to their clients about.”

And, even after the two weeks are up, participants keep in touch with Bartolomeo, she explained.

“I get emails from them all throughout the year,” she said. “They might have an idea or want to check in. Sometimes we just run things by them, I'll say, ‘what do you think about this person? This celebrity? Is this something you care about?’”

 

 
Seventeen cover  ()
 

 

Experiential programme a boon for Seventeen

The Seventeen Fashion Experience has been beneficial for the magazine brand, Bartolomeo said.

“Everyone who talks to them in the building and out of the building, we get so much out of it,” she said. “It's an opportunity to connect with teens which, they're very busy, I think it's often difficult for them, for people to get one on one time with them, whether it's a brand, for us, it's our readers.”

It’s been a successful programme, Bartolomeo said. Not only is it a source of revenue, but it also allows both Seventeen and program participants to have a unique experience. The program has had a total of 92 participants across the three programs.

 

 

Learning from the best! Thank you @jamesdemolet for sharing your styling expertise with the ladies of the @seventeenfashionexperience #17inthecity #seventeen #wcc360

A post shared by Seventeen Fashion Experience (@seventeenfashionexperience) on

 

Today’s teenagers, Generation Z, love an experience.

“That's what we've learned,” Bartolomeo said. “I think a really great way to market to them is through an experience like this. So, I think, everyone who has participated in it has really gotten something out of it and the girls get something out of it, it's a learning experience but it's also really fun for them and I know they have a great time.”

Indeed, Bartolomeo said the teens tell their friends about it. “You know it's a success when they're recommending it to others,” she said. “We had a girl who did the program twice, and there are girls who hear about it from their friends, and so, then they do it the next year.”

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