Your Marketing Is More Of A Bother Than A Benefit To Millennials

Think that 20-somethings are more comfortable with next-generation gadgetry, tracking and sponsorship formats than their old-fogy elders? Think again. According to a Razorfish survey of over 1,500 Millennials in the U.S., U.K., China and Brazil, 77% considered it an “invasion of privacy” when advertising targeted them on their phones. The Drum reports that sensitivity to targeted mobile advertising is actually highest in the U.S., where 79% of youthful respondents equated mobile targeting with a breach of privacy. Keep in mind, surveys like this are polling reactions to questions, not actual reactions to ads.

The survey may be even more instructive about the kinds of advertising Millennials especially dislike. For instance, 77% of respondents disliked seeing the same ad again and again, while there was also widespread disdain for ads touting products the consumer had already purchased. Another way to add up these two data points: Millennials are aware when the robotic machinery of digital ad serving is somehow broken or glaringly, well, robotic. Interestingly, it is their understanding of, and comfort with, the technology that might lead Millennials to be more unforgiving than their elders. For instance, the survey found that 78% felt that a bad experience at a brand’s Web site affects their opinion of that brand, compared to 69% of Gen-Xers feeling the same way.



The mobile sensitivity is interesting but not conclusive. A lot has to do with how the questions was posed. If you already align privacy issues with targeted advertising, the question likely positions itself to be answered a certain way.

But the data point does raise an important questions about how well -- if at all -- online retargeting efforts will translate to mobile. Online it just seems robotic and bothersome when retailers stalk you with your own abandoned shopping cart or recent browsing behaviors. But as those techniques port to mobile devices, (and they come with a geo-location layer), bothersome may drift into invasive for some mobile users.

As much as all of us have gotten accustomed to the idea of mobile advertising in recent years, remember that it was only seven or eight years ago that carriers demurred from mobile advertising because they felt it would alienate customers. While some of their fears have been vanquished, their original instincts still resonate. Mobile is different. Porting the same targeting model here may have unintended consequences.  

In general, Millennials appear relatively unimpressed, and actually a bit disoriented, by the torrent of content media and marketers toss at them, with 45% of this demo saying they were not much interested in this content. The overwhelming majority (72%) say they feel a bit lost in the swirl of entertainment they have on tap, Direct Marketing News reports.

But the hunger for clarity, guidance and information is there. More than three quarters of these young adults say they want to stay informed on certain subjects. Many (45%) are specifically looking for content and advice to help them chart a path to adulthood. In other words, brands have an opportunity to craft content that targets a specific set of Millennial needs towards transitioning, smarter curation of information, discovery. Of course, Millennials are also looking for spaces to escape from the havoc of transitioning to adulthood, too.

Getting the tone right appears to be a real challenge for crafting this kind of content for this audience. Millennials want to be spoken to on a human level and with humor, the research suggests. Pop culture references are always helpful, and the content should be helping the user escape or engage their own creativity.

In other words -- don’t act like their parents.  

1 comment about "Your Marketing Is More Of A Bother Than A Benefit To Millennials".
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  1. Justin Belmont from Prose Media, July 4, 2014 at 6:39 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this, Steve. It does seem like brands try to impress their audience with the content they put out there, instead of trying to help and benefit them. At, we believe that getting the tone right is a fundamental principle.

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