From September onwards until the end of the year, media marketers and their budget controllers often quarrel about marketing campaigns with great out-of-pocket expenses. 

Surely experience marketing, brand activation, and organising events are among the most criticised expenses on the marketing budget. And even more suspicion is raised when that money goes to events for 18-to 25-year-olds — a target group where, apart from bottom fare student subscriptions, there is little to nothing to gain. No sales, no margin, no loyalty.

But there are reasons to invest energy and money in young adults.

In an era of recession and declining sales, media have an opportunity to target a new and farm-fresh audience — those who have just started to consume media. They hardly know why editors print news once a day and what that looks like, let alone spend an hour reading it.

That’s why De Standaard organises Het Grootste Licht. 

Het Grootste Licht – the brightest bulb — is best translated as “the sharpest knife in the drawer.” It’s a touring quiz event in different rounds, taking places in major university cities in Flanders, Belgium.

About 1,500 teams of three students register for the quiz. During six weeks, De Standaard targets them with respectively an online game (11,000 participants), six local live rounds (4,500 students) and one final round to select a winning team. Three winners win a trip to Latin America. 

So what’s so special about Het Grootste Licht and what to learn from it? First of all, the concept of the event is aligned with the DNA of De Standaard. We are a general quality newspaper; journalistic integrity is a daily marching order. 

De Standaard is about trustworthy information from reliable sources and obtained with quality journalism. So a declination to a quiz might sound a bit obvious and boring. But if made it entertaining as a music festival! 

Look for a great central location, a famous presenter that students relate to (and that sticks to the script), and use all the technology you can master to integrate in the quiz. We play the quiz with tablets, project intermediary results, and pay a lot of attention to visualisation. 

There’s a DJ on stage, playing music questions and fooling around with jingles. There are video fragments and live questions from standup comedians. The quiz is very entertaining and the scoring is conceived to give everybody the chance to win until the final round. Suspense guaranteed. 

The flow of the game also permits De Standaard to gather data during the first live round. Every online inscriber has to register and is added to our marketing database. Every participant gets one free month trial subscription of De Standaard prior to the event to brush up their general knowledge. 

And during the whole period, De Standaard collaborates with the communication departments of the universities and colleges. A great number of communication students contribute to the hosting of the participants, the game, and satisfaction survey afterwards. These students are a highly ranked segment of potential readers and who knows in the near future … even colleagues. 

What may such an event cost? With a clever approach, such events shouldn’t be too expensive. A newspaper has quite some negotiating power to barter with music halls and cultural houses to obtain a free location, get a discount for the presentation, and other contributors, get help from the communication students for free, etc.

You can also integrate your sponsors and offer them the opportunity to activate with their brands (and charge them correctly for it).

In terms of youth marketing, a nationwide event reaching more than 4,000 students with a 2.5-hour quiz is an opportunity for many brands not to be missed. About two-thirds of the total production budget was covered with the contribution of the sponsor. So our squabble with the budget controller didn’t take that long.