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NEW YORK — Aeropostale is trying to use the small screen to pull teens’ heart strings.
This fall, the company is launching its first TV advertising campaign, although chairman and chief executive officer Julian Geiger prefers to think of it as a “movie.”
The ads could seem feature-length to viewers accustomed to typical TV ads. While the campaign will begin Sept. 4 with 30-second trailers, the primary spots will span a full 2 1/2 minutes.
The New York-based casual junior sportswear firm is using a new marketing concept to capture its customers through television and the Internet. Aeropostale’s aim is to show consumers that it knows just what it’s like to be young and in love.
The TV ads, which begin airing on MTV next month, feature four teens. None are models; they are all aspiring actors, with one professional: Busy Philips of “Dawson’s Creek.” The concept is to depict the real-life situations that teens face everyday and highlight the feelings they experience when falling in love for the first time. The trailer will launch the campaign and instruct the viewer to stay tuned for a 2-1/2 minute short film, planned to begin airing on Sept. 17.
The first ad features the four teens in a car. The teens in the front seat are strong and a bit more confident in themselves than the two in the backseat, who are meeting for the first time.
“The kids in the backseat are learning there is more to life than they have been living,” said David Lipman, principal of Lipman, the advertising agency that developed the creative concept for the campaign. “This is not about pushing the trends on the consumer, this is about their lives and what they relate to. Everyone remembers what it was like to be in love for the first time. These are things that happen in life that everyone can relate to.”
Lipman pointed out that the teens are in a girl’s car.
“We wanted it to be the girl’s car,” he said. “She is the stronger one and we wanted to show the strength of the female.”
Lipman stressed that the ads build on teen life and how they relate to each other.
“This is not about fashion and being a fashion brand. It doesn’t focus on the clothes,” he said. “It focuses on life.”
Three more 2 1/2 minute spots will follow over the course of the coming year.
The second ad is planned to air during the holiday retail season and will feature a couple in a deep telephone conversation.
“The girl is at home and the guy is away at school. The whole movie is the two of them on the phone,” Lipman said. “For the last two movies, the kids are at a house party and one girl’s boyfriend is grounded at home. She is wondering why she is at the party and realizing that she just wants to be with him.”
While Lipman didn’t want the campaign to feature too many recognizable faces, he decided to include Philips because he wanted a lead character whom teens watching could recognize and relate to.
“The performance she brings gives the rest of the characters confidence,” he said. “Building their confidence was so important.”
The casual clothes, Geiger said, embody a feeling of innocence in a teenager’s life.
“The ads show a sweet and innocent approach,” he said. “It highlights a wonderful time in their lives.”
The company’s budget for the campaign stands at around $8 million.
Geiger said this is a good time for the company to launch its first TV campaign. The company, founded in 1987, went public in May.
“I believe that before you do something like this, you have to get the business to a certain size,” he said. “I think, at this point, we have done that.”
In the fiscal year ended Feb. 2, the company had revenues of $404.4 million, and it now operates 341 stores throughout the country. It started as a division of R.H. Macy Inc. In 1998 Geiger led a team of investors who bought the company from Federated Department Stores.
As part of the campaign, the company has redesigned and relaunched its Web site. While Aeropostale has run a site for several years, the new one allows customers to log in and chat with others on the site, check out the merchandise, find store locations and play games.
“We wanted to create a place where kids can come and play,” Geiger stressed. “We do not and will not sell merchandise on the site. We want them to go to the stores to do that.”
The new site was just launched in time for back-to-school. It is divided into two parts, one featuring the collection, the other an interactive chat room, called Aero House. In Aero House, registered users can explore the virtual rooms, build their own virtual identities, decorate their own rooms, visit and chat with their “Aero family” in customized rooms and in public chat rooms with various themes. By purchasing Aeropostale merchandise at stores, customers can accumulate “Aeros,” a virtual monetary unit they can use to purchase virtual furniture to customize the rooms on the Web site.
“The whole idea of this is surrounded by the home,” Geiger said. “Kids these days are not as anxious to leave the nest. It comes from the whole post-9/11 feeling, where they are realizing that maybe Mom and Dad can be cool.”