Rediscovering Media's Lost Generation
How the digital transformation of Gen Y forced marketing and media to break up, and what can bring them together again
In most ways, marketers are no different than they
were last year, last decade or even last century: They sell stuff. It’s the media they rely on to do that selling that is in disarray, reinventing itself faster than the speediest algorithms.
Few companies have managed to keep up with the digital explosion, let alone get ahead of it. In a very real way, these companies have lost their audiences, especially digital natives. MEDIA asked Doug
Ray, president of Carat USA, for his take on that widening disconnect, and what marketers need to do to rediscover their audiences in an era of still-increasing digital dissonance.
Who is the most elusive audience right now? Is it still young men?
We work on Red Bull, Adidas, Diageo and Gillette, and what’s interesting is that these young men are significant multitaskers. They are doing more than ever before, and as convergence continues to roll out, they are adapting to their devices, giving them the seamless ability to connect with brands. But it’s also a distraction. We’re seeing the lowest levels of attentiveness. It’s like channel flipping on TV, but that is playing out in the digital space.
The idea of dusting off last year’s media plan and tweaking it a little is absolutely a dinosaur. Even looking at last month’s media plan and updating it won’t work for this audience.
Are they ever completely unreachable?
We have a CPG company that was trying to sell a product to men in a new category. One segment of young men was very receptive. But the target audience the client wanted was literally blocking us out — they underindexed on everything. The only thing they did respond to was point-of-sale materials and couponing, but even that wouldn’t be enough. So we told the client to focus on marketing the product to significant others — the wives and girlfriend who would buy the product for him.
Would you call them indifferent?
No! Even though they are elusive in a broad sense, they are incredibly passionate about what they care about most. So we are moving from being media planners to content planners, to take advantage of that. They’ll engage in Glee or the Olympics or the World Cup, and they’ll do it on a computer, a mobile device or a gaming console. To them, there is no such thing as TV.
So it’s all about content they love?
Well, content that is fully atomized and distributable. Content needs to be transportable from screen to screen. I need to email it, to share it. And a brand can play a key role in attaching itself to content. To connect with a young ethnic audience, for example, our client Smirnoff created Master of the Mix, a reality show to find great DJs.
Are young moms hard to reach?
This is another major change. Among Baby Boomers or even Gen X, the trusted resources were institutions — doctors, nurses, even brands. But for Millennial moms, the most trusted source is an experienced mom. From a media standpoint, that is why the rise of the Mommy Blogger is not just a PR vehicle, but a key part of the communications plan.
What is the biggest difference in reaching Gen Y?
It’s not really about media or technology. It’s about behavior. These consumers want to have a high level of involvement with brands. If we aren’t inviting participation in our big ideas, we are not addressing the fundamental expectations of that audience.
I’m 42, and when I started out in this business, it was very much about the media, focusing on what was happening at NBC and Time. Now, it’s all about understanding how people interact with brands. If we don’t start with people, and put people at the center of our decision-making, we will never be able to recommend the right media.
Does that put more pressure on media planners and buyers?
Well, it certainly is up to us now to keep brands relevant. And that used to be the job of creative. But if we don’t reach our audiences in a way that means something to them, we will lose relevance. And they will abandon us.