Express Yourself

How do you reach hyper-involved, overextended, yet fickle teens? Like, duh -- instant messaging. "If you have the opportunity to put your products in the IM environment, that's something you jump at," says Samantha Skey, Alloy's senior vice president of media and marketing.

Now Bandalong Entertainment offers imstar*, an instant-messaging program for teen girls and college-age young women. Since debuting last fall, it has attracted a host of A-list partners, including Fuse TV, Aeropostale, and Baby Phat. Bandalong's imstar* places a premium on personal expression: Users can customize a three-dimensional IM character's hair, skin tone, and wardrobe. Imstar* also offers shopping and entertainment content, from games to virtual mall.

"This audience really lives and dies by its IM, but they want to express themselves better than they could before," says Pam Sturchio Quandt, vice president of marketing for Bandalong. To this end, imstar* offers users many options from which to choose. "A smiley face doesn't say, 'I just got into the college of my dreams!' like a full-body dance movement set to music does, you know?" Quandt laughs.

Despite a high-profile, ad-supported launch, imstar* remains a work in progress. The program isn't yet available for Mac users, and Bandalong has hesitated to open imstar*'s doors to boys. "The content isn't there for them yet," Quandt says. "But where the girls are, there will be boys, so that's something on our radar."

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