American Girl Creates COPPA-Compliant Engagement Around Video Campaign

To introduce its new 1950s-inspired character, Maryellen, iconic doll company American Girl has partnered with crowd sourcing platform Tongal to create a user generated video campaign.

To participate in the open casting call for a new short film focusing on the Julie character or newcomer Maryellen, girls between 8 and 14 can submit audition videos to a Tongal microsite. From there, fans vote for finalists. The winners recieve $10,000 and complete 15 minute films to be featured on the American Girl Play@AG site. 

While American Girl dolls are known for their retro clothes and stories, marketing to tweens has largely become a digital endeavor, says Stephanie Spanos, a spokesperson for American Girl. 

“We are about making sure we stay connected to girls in a way that’s relevant to their lives, which means having a significant presence in the digital arena and delivering content to girls in ways that matter to them,” Spanos says. “Working with Tongal allows us to tap into their extensive creative community and elevate our storytelling through short form films.”

However, digital marketing can be a tricky space for youth-oriented brands, as the Children’s Online Pricacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents marketers from collecting data or other personal information from children under 13.

So instead of marketing the campaign to their target audience of girls between 8 and 14, Spanos says American Girl will work to get moms on board through social media.

“We’re not marketing the Tongal project or casting call directly to our community of girls due to COPPA guidelines,” Spanos says. “We are driving awareness among moms and parents on all of our social channels, website, and email. When the Maryellen and Julie short films are complete, however, we’ll drive excitement for the videos through our Play@AG site. We’ll also be supporting the launch of the short films via YouTube and our other social channels.” 

While American Girl has long relied on video for storytelling, the new campaign will help take the brand from the DVD to the digital era, according to James DeJulio, co-founder of Tongal.

“Video is the language of the Internet. It is becoming the preferred medium of the young, social media-saturated generation,” DeJulio says. “When done right, it entertains and makes connections to an audience, and can reach millions of people across borders. Projects like the one we are working on with American Girl show that brands can strive to be entertainers and give their audiences what they want.”

Related reading