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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
The world according to head girls
Alex Laskowski
Alex Laskowski: "If they send us a CD, we'll definitely listen to it"
Head girls at some of Britain's top schools are being targeted in the music business' latest ploy to sell to young people. Are they the new trend gurus?

As arbiters of cool, clever kids have never ranked high... until now, perhaps.

In a radical departure from typical marketing ploys, a record company is targeting head girls to spread the word about one of its rising stars.

Universal Records is blitzing head girls at every all-girl school in Britain with Jamie Cullum promotion packs, which include posters, stickers and copies of his new CD.

The company believes the girls are cultural kingpins, whose influence on friends and fellow pupils will help spread the word about Cullum to a younger audience.

There's nothing new about this sort of marketing. Hip brands use so-called cool hunters to track buying trends among young people, handing them freebies as a way of spreading the word.

But the advent of head girls as some sort of cultural opinion formers is a new one. What do they think and what are they into right now? And what's your verdict on their cultural pointers? Let us know using the form below.

Joanne Lynch, 17, head girl at Loughborough High School

ON JAMIE CULLUM: I've heard bits of his last album but didn't buy it although I did download "High and Dry" onto my iPod. He's certainly a talented musician.

INFLUENCE: It's a strange tactic. It's quite a privilege being a head girl but I'm not sure I've much influence. Maybe if I played it in the common room... Do I feel used? No. He's trying to sell as many albums as possible, but if they send the CD to anyone else here it would have the same effect.

MUSIC: I'm into Coldplay, Keane, the Killers - music that's more sophisticated than pop, although, I confess, I like McFly and Busted. They're catchy tunes. The last two albums I bought were Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway, and Oasis, Don't Believe the Truth.

FILM/BOOKS etc: I enjoy Harry Potter. I think they're excellent. The last film I saw was Crash which was really enjoyable, but thought-provoking too. But I also like a romantic comedy.

Alex Laskowski, 17, head girl at Nottingham High School for Girls

ON JAMIE CULLUM: I don't know much about his music but a few girls in my year have been to his concert. We've put up the posters I've been sent of him in the common room.

INFLUENCE: I doubt I carry much influence in terms of getting other people to follow what I'm listening to. I don't know how successful the campaign will be, although if they send us a CD, we'll definitely listen to it.

MUSIC: We listen to a real mix of stuff in the common room - Queen, Travis, R&B, Led Zeppelin - our parents' music. The last album I bought was Green Day's. I'm into David Bowie, Jet, Maroon 5.

FILMS/BOOKS etc: I'm looking forward to seeing Pride and Prejudice, as are a lot of the girls. We all like Johnny Depp, so Pirates of the Caribbean was a big hit here. Foreign films too - My Life as a Dog, Amelie.

Victoria Hudson, 17, head girl at St Margaret's School, Edinburgh

ON JAMIE CULLUM: I'm not a major fan, but I'm not averse to him either. Receiving the box of posters and stuff through the post was a surprise - we had quite a bit of fun opening it.

INFLUENCE: I'd hope I have some influence among my year - a head girl needs to, to get things done. But as far as influencing what others listen to, I don't think I have that power. We're all independently minded. Most marketing is about manipulation. At least this is quite a clever campaign.

MUSIC: I'm into the Killers, the Kaiser Chiefs - I went to see them live - dance music, older music. I'm going to see Athlete in October.

FILMS/BOOKS etc: The classics are my thing at the moment. We're reading Pride and Prejudice and Emma for our highers. I'd like to read more novels, but school work takes up too much time. On TV, I like House, the OC, CSI.

Fenella Cooil, 17, head girl at Leicester High School for Girls

ON JAMIE CULLUM: I've not received anything yet - which is a bit of a shame, since the other head girls have. He's certainly a gifted musician although I've never really listened a great deal to his stuff.

INFLUENCE: I don't think I have any influence among my peer group, although perhaps further down the school, among the younger girls. Of course this is about manipulation - what marketing campaign isn't. But look, it's got you interested, so that's playing into their hands as well. I'm not going to object if someone sends me a free CD.

MUSIC: Green Day was the last album I bought, but I'm really keen on Rufus Wainwright. On the common room CD player, we're listening to James Blunt. Lots of girls are into the R&B scene, although it's not my thing.

FILMS BOOKS etc: I love the theatre. I'm in a play at the moment. I'm going to see the King and I soon and Annie. The last film I saw at the cinema was the Island. That was very good.


What's your verdict on these cultural pointers? Let us know using the form below.

Well if only Adam Ant had employed the same marketing tactic when I was a head girl... Jamie Cullum is great - these girls don't know how lucky they are.
Kath, Reading, UK

If every American high school Hollywood movie is true and head girls are really the supreme winner of a peer elected popularity contest, then I think this will be a successful marketing ploy. However, when I was at school our head girl was elected by the teachers, which by default dissolved any remaining credibility!
Kate, Nottingham

I'm sorry - but who the hell cares what 17 year old girls think about music?
Sam, London

Head girls and boys have never, as suggested, been the particularly bright ones. They're the popular ones with both pupils and staff, and therefore this idea is rather clever... and should be banned!
Barry Norton, Hemel Hempstead

This type of approach is really nothing new - it was happening back in 1978 when I was head boy.
Chris, London

Surely he'd get more business from headmistresses and their friends.
Nick, London

This will work very well, I expect, examining the current tastes listed above it is hard to find a band listed not already heavily promoted by the industry - "music that's more sophisticated than pop" well, there's degrees of separation from pop, and those three bands sit in the one right next to it, sadly. Trend gurus? Perhaps, but I'd say the amount of choice is heavily, heavily regulated - it's a shame that an industry with such a fantastic wealth of product to sell must be so cynical about marketing it, frankly. Some hope remains though - Led Zeppelin in the common room at any school can only be a good sign.
James Byatt, Nottingham, UK

This isn't going to give Jaime Cullum any more credibility, and the idea that head girls are some kind of "tastemakers" is moronic to the extreme. If they want to bring Jaime Cullum to a younger audience, how about getting him to do something other than "jazzing up" a bunch of old classics, and the occasional new tune like "Frontin'" or "High and Dry". All credit to Fenella Cooil though, anyone who likes Rufus Wainwright has great taste indeed.
Ben, Winchester

Head girls? Britain's top schools? Not exactly a broad cross-section of society though, is it? They'd be better off targeting kids who would find that sort of music refreshing because it would be new to them. "Jazz" does not have to equate to "posh".
A Jones, Cardiff

The record companies don't need to get the girls that you featured to influence their peers' choices - from the sounds of the girls' cultural tastes (Coldplay, the Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, the OC, etc!), they like the same bland bands and TV shows as is propagated by Channel 4's T4.
Nick, Southampton, UK

Arbiters of cool? Ha! They are merely commercial band-wagonists like anyone else. I've got a friend who's into "cool music" but he just gets it out of Wire Magazine. Where is the cool in that? You might as well give them mars bars to push to their mates.
Craig, Leeds

Who is Jamie Cullum?
Alex, Geneva, Switzerland

Oh good, once again we see coolness becoming the measure for how good something is percieved to be. Why should something be critically acclaimed because 17 year old girls find the artist "cute"?
Jeremy, UK

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