Two things of significance to those of us in advertising and marketing:
1. A television show actually served as a touchpoint for a generation. Much as we trumpet the death of television and its disbursement into a million little specialty networks, High School Musical is going to be something this generation remembers as part of their childhood, much as we remember The Brady Bunch. Disney doesn’t do a whole lot of online promotion other than on their own site, and that site didn’t have a particularly robust selection of High School Musical offerings. Why? Well mainly, I’m guessing, because the intended demographic is (technically) not allowed online without their parents. But also because Disney has figured out that Your Brand Is Not My Friend™. A marketer trying to insinuate itself into areas of the interweb where kids socialize would be clearly creepy (as opposed to a marketer trying to insinuate itself into an area where adults socialize, which is more annoying than creepy.)
2. I mentioned The Brady Bunch before. That was a network TV show that was aimed at and acceptable for, kids. One of the parents interviewed in the Times’ article noted that “In a regular teen movie, they’d be jumping all over each other and you’d have to bleep things out.” That is huge. I mean other than certain reality shows (e.g. American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance) there’s precious little on during prime time that tweens can watch. Most sitcoms—even those on at 8PM—feature a healthy dose of sex (real or implied), and morality issues aside, a leer-com like How I Met Your Mother just plain isn’t all that interesting to kids. Disney figured this out a few years ago and now they’re sitting back and reaping the rewards. There are many underserved markets out there which can yield similar results, the trick is identifying them and talking to them in a language that suits their aesthetic-- not yours.