The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 24, 2013

Target pursues college students with Bullseye University

The young girl in T-shirt and shorts paces up and down her dorm room, occasionally stopping to vault herself on top of the bunk bed and then back down again.

“Who finished the pizza?” she seems to ask no one in particular. “I did.”

This millennial’s musings would seem typical of any bored college student, if it weren’t for the thousand or so people watching her online.

For four days last week, Target live-streamed five YouTube personalities as they mused, joked, ate, slept and generally passed the time in makeshift dorm rooms outfitted with products sold by the Minneapolis-based retailer.

Not quite commercial, not quite reality, Target’s digital experiment, dubbed Bullseye University, represents its most ambitious attempt to penetrate the digital universe of college students. By scrolling over each room on BullseyeUniversity.com, viewers could also activate pop-up boxes that give information about the merchandise and links to purchasing them on Target.com.

Brian Kelly, a retail consultant and former top marketing executive at Sears, says live-streaming millennials interacting with Target products gives Bullseye University an air of relevance “that’s not as creepy” as other voyeuristic projects.

“Part of the message is the medium,” Kelly said. “And if you can find a way to drive commerce, then why not?”

If Bullseye University seems a bit like “Real World,” MTV’s long-running reality show, well, that’s the point. (MTV actually sponsored a concert on the site.) To connect with digital-savvy college students, Target officials say they needed to move beyond commercials and circulars and focus on what resonates with the younger set.

“The millennial guest is different from other generations, especially their media consumption,” Senior Vice President of Marketing Rick Gomez said in an interview. “They are all over digital, mobile, social. … So we have invested a significant part of the back-to-college campaign to the digital space.”

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