VH1 Finds 'Adultsters' Stand Out In Millennial Crowd

Cable networks are constantly looking for ways to uniquely define their audience to advertisers. At VH1, enter “adultsters.”

That first phase of millennials -- ages 25 to 34 -- share similarities such as entrepreneurial spirit; unwillingness to settle in a relationship; and desire to be top-notch parents without ceding self-identity. Their lives now are also very different from what they may have envisioned as they were coming of age.

David Giles, who oversees strategic insights and research at VH1, writes in a blog post that adultsters’ “formative years were like a ‘guided tour,’ with a much calmer life than they have today – one with clear footsteps and benchmarks to follow.”

The group may be the last to have grown up B.I. (Before Internet) -- or at least before the unending digital life -- and they recall the 1990s before the Internet crash, when the economy was humming. Their baby boom parents “hyper-nurtured” them with structure, but also imbued them with a sense they could “be anything they want to be.” 



And then, came 9/11 and that non-stop digital life, which ushered in a “perfect storm (that) turned their guided tour into an ‘uncharted expedition.’” Clear professional and personal paths envisioned were uprooted. 

How have they adapted? A sort of personal GPS tabbed “Me.P.S.”

The “Me” manifests itself in confidience, self-reliance and placing "importance on taking care of themselves physically, emotionally and financially.”

The “P” is passion (and a quest for happiness). “S” represents an emphasis on “social networks and connections” to help adultsters find their way.

“Me.P.S.” informs work, love and parenting.

“Keeping Up with the Zuckerbergs” is a broad description tossed out on work life. Adultsters do not want to be bound by a cubicle, both literally and figuratively.

“Whether working for themselves or within a large company, they seek to uphold their own personal career paths – not one that’s set for them,” Giles writes.

Perhaps having seen the post 9/11 recession and now lived through the Great Recession, they make choices that prioritize contentment over cash or “passion, not just paycheck.”

And adultsters are focused on leaving a legacy and finding a purpose, looking to role models such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, individuals who did things “their own way.”

In the pursuit of happiness in relationships, adultsters will engage in a “waiting game.” They’ll wait longer than previous generations for an ideal mate. And then after finding that someone, they may wait longer to get married.

“They eventually ‘settle down’ in the traditional sense, but won’t do it with anyone who’s less than perfect,” Giles writes.

Particularly women may be so selective, Giles writes, is they feel they have more time because dating Web sites allow more chances to meet people and fertility treatments offer a chance to get pregnant later. Giles refers to it as “hitting snooze on my biological clock.”

Once in a relationship, adultsters maintain a degree of individuality. “It’s not always ‘we’ – they still maintain a strong sense of ‘me’ and even support each other in their individual passions and quests,” Giles writes.

As for raising children in a digital age, Giles refers to it as “iNurture.” Citing that “me” outlook again, he writes they look to “preserve their own identity beyond being a parent and recognize that they need to nurture themselves to be a better parent.”

There’s “hybrid parenting,” mixing the discipline and structure of their childhoods with “new-school values” -- an emphasis on fun and enjoyment. They also take advantage of “crowd-sourcing tips” from the likes of Facebook and Wikipedia.

VH1’s adultster research comes from an amalgam of sources: interviews with professors, psychologists and other experts; full-day immersion with 24 adultsters in suburban Philadelphia and Denver; a national online survey of younger millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers; and a weeklong dialogue with 20 adultsters via Facebook.

Presumably encouraging the use of VH1, how will the network look to steer advertisers in reaching adultsters? Giles writes marketers need to understand that millennials can’t be grouped together as a homogenous group and tailored messaging is critical. Also, an understanding of the impact of social media is crucial.

“Crowd-sourced information shapes both major and minor purchasing decisions,” he writes.

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