At this point, the laser-like marketing focus on millennials is a given. And when it comes to connecting with millennials, there's no media like digital mobile media. With the precipitous decline in traditional media consumption and the issues plaguing the desktop Web — from ad fraud to ad blocking — mobile is seen as the millennial marketing promise land, where ads roamed free.
Although mobile has always been challenging, from its small screen sizes to the intense "lean forward" nature of its users, its massive growth has been irresistible, especially for those marketers using traditional interruption-based advertising. At least that was the case up until Sept. 16, when Apple launched iOS 9. Apple has approximately 44% of all smart phone subscribers in the United States, plus 70% of the North American tablet market and the most attractive demographics, so Apple is the place to be.
However, with the arrival of iOS 9, ad blocking suddenly looms over the most lucrative segment of the mobile landscape. During the first weeks after the launch of iOS 9, ad blockers were some of the most popular apps in the iTunes App Store. If ad blocking adoption on mobile follows a path similar to the desktop Web, it is possible that a majority of millennials on iOS 9 will soon receive no mobile Web ads at all. To make matters worse, ad blocking apps also block personal data from being gathered. Suddenly the big promises of big data to deliver personal and contextually relevant messaging become much more fragile.
So what does this mean for marketers trying to connect with millennials? Simply that the interruption-based messaging that many have relied on for decades is rapidly decreasing in both its effectiveness and its reach. But as is often said, when one door closes, another door opens. The money that was spent on disruptive advertising can now be shifted towards building content and engaging with communities in ways that millennials actually care about. Great examples of this abound. The Red Bulletin is a case in point of content that aligns with the purpose of the brand and the passions of its audience. Talwar Bindi's Life Saving Dot campaign, by Grey Singapore, shows how community partnerships can literally save lives.
Now is the time for companies to re-imagine a new kind of marketing — one where the marketing value they deliver is equal to and worthy of the products and services that they create.