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AT&T’s Social Experiment Targets Hip and Young With New Reality @SummerBreak Series

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AT&T is freshening up its image with a hip and young marketing campaign that centers around a new social experiment called @SummerBreak. Part reality series, part interactive social media, @SummerBreak could be described as a web-based reality show that follows a group of Southern California high school graduates as they spend their last summer together.

“Beginning June 17, the next wave in entertainment puts you right in the middle of the action as a group of SoCal teenagers heat up social media with @SummerBreak, a first-of-its-kind, unscripted mobile series that can be experienced virtually anytime, almost anywhere from AT&T, BBDO and The Chernin Group,” AT&T wrote in a release.

Image via AT&T

Image via AT&T; #SummerBreakTurnUp

It’s a different approach to engagement and marketing, especially for a company with such a history and legacy as AT&T. In an age of DVRs where viewers can skip through commercials or streaming shows, AT&T is making its presence more subtle through product placement and viewer engagement. As viewers of @SummerBreak journey with these young adults through some gorgeous beach-front scenes, they’ll want to know more about the stars and engage with them through Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Essentially, the series takes on MTV’s Laguna Beach concept and adds a twist with the viewer engagement, which should draw in the young generation of sharers and oversharers. I attended the @SummerBreak launch party in the coastal town of Santa Monica, California where there were no suits, no boring conversations, and a lot of fun.

If AT&T’s social experiment with the 8-week series is successful, it could have serious implications for marketing and how you view your favorite mobile brands. It’s an interesting approach that will feature mobile devices and technologies from AT&T in the hands of some of your favorite (or least liked) teen stars on the series. Many of the cast members on the series at the #SummerBreakTurnUp party had iPhones in their possessions, and many with Lifeproof’s Fre case for the iPhone 5 as it was a pool-side event.

The approach isn’t different from the Laguna Beach spin-off, MTV’s The Hills, where stars were seen with BlackBerry phones from Verizon Wireless through much of the series. In AT&T’s case, it’s about sharing, participating in the experience, and interacting with the cast through social media, which could help strengthen the brand even more.

“Our goal here, as always, is to provide unique experiences for our customers by engaging with them in an innovative way,” AT&T’s Chief Marketing Officer David Christopher says.

It’s storytelling, it’s easy to relate to for young people, and it’s marketing that’s welcomed into your homes or on your mobile devices rather than be shunned through new content, rather than traditional ads. It’s part of AT&T rethinking possible. We’ll have to wait and see if AT&T can recoup its investment in this new experiment and whether the messaging will appeal to young people in the end.

Tech enthusiast in Silicon Valley enjoying the possibilities of ubiquitous connectivity, information sharing, and collaboration enabled by mobile broadband. You can contact Chuong on Twitter @chuongvision or search +chuongvision on Google+.

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