I’m moderating an Advertising Week panel next Wednesday called “Breaking Through: Media Strategies that Impact and Reach Millennials.” I didn’t name the panel: If I had, I’d probably have left the word reach out of the description.
As I’ve told many customer groups over the last few years, reaching millennials is not the problem. There are a hundred programmatic strategies to put an ad message in front of a critical mass of millennials. Heck, a reasonably well-designed cable buy will get you the reach, if that’s what you care about. But reach is not the point. In fact, for publishers and media companies it can be a fatal distraction.
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When reduced to the concept of reach, millennials are the new adults/25-39. It’s just math. When it comes to impact, however, there’s a lot of good work to be done. Most of what we think we know about millennials is made up of stereotypes and bland generalities. But one thing is true: they are the first generation to grow up in a world of constant connection and unlimited media and communication choice. And that fact informs the ways in which we can truly help marketers. We need to give them solid guidance on three factors: distribution, form and tone.
Distribution: To the cable programmer, the connection has to be made on its own channels; to the web publisher, it’s all about who comes to my site or spends time with my app. But that’s becoming a fool’s errand. We must understand and offer strategies based on how young consumers will really experience, participate in and share the conversation.
Form: Is the banner ad a dead issue in persuading millennials to do anything? Pretty much. And the canned 15 or 30 second pre-roll ad is not far behind. And the kind of typical social posts executed by many marketers today are also headed for the boneyard. The question we need to help marketers answer is, “when it comes to millennials, what will replace the ad unit?” In the short run, we can advise them on things like ad size and video length, but that’s really just kicking the can. Millennial consumers reject ads. We need something else.
Tone: Perhaps the best way for publishers and media companies to make a difference for marketers is to become their millennial translators. Too often, the marketer’s attempts and native content, social participation or influencer marketing have the same effect as your dad showing up at the bar where you and your friends hang out. And if he’s grown a hipster beard and tosses out cliché buzzwords, all the worse. Finding an authentic and legitimate voice in the millennial conversation is what is most imperative to the marketer. You can help with that.
Care to join the conversation? Post your comments below and plan to join us on Wednesday, September 28th at 4:30 at the Liberty Theater on 42nd Street. Walker Jacobs (Fandom), Kathy Kayse (Yahoo!), Andrew Capone (NCC) and Ben Dietz (VICE) will help us unpack the issues. If you’re not registered, go here. See you next week.