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Age is just another number

Research shows no difference in advertising effectiveness for Millennials and Generation X

Marketers have become obsessed with Millennials. It seems like every week there is a new study or claim that we need to completely reinvent our strategy for how we speak to, work with and market to this group.

Frequently we are told that Millennials don’t respond to ads in the same way as other generations, and that they “have turned the traditional marketing strategy on its head, requiring an entirely new approach.” But is there much evidence to support this claim?

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the Millennials Marketing Conference in Sydney, where I showed a range of third-party and proprietary Yahoo7 data demonstrating that, in many ways, Millennials were more similar than different from older generations - particularly Gen X.

Do Millennials respond differently to ads when compared to Gen X?

We looked at data collected from a controlled experiment as part of our Insights Series, which tested a range of FMCG ads across a variety of digital formats. The results showed that across common measures of ad effectiveness - recall, likeability and purchase consideration - that Millennials (18 - 34) attracted similar scores as Gen X (35 - 54) on average for all the ads we tested.

Millennials and Generation X had no difference in key advertising measures

We also looked at the various ad formats - video, display and sponsored content - which again showed similar recall levels for Millennials (18 - 34) and Gen X (35 -54).

Advertising recall for Millennials and Generation X was similar across online ad formats

What this suggests is that at a macro level, Millennials are no different to Gen X in how they

respond to advertising, and that we don’t need to throw out the rule book when it comes to marketing to this group.

But if I shouldn’t be focussing on Millennials, who should I focus on?

We looked at the same dataset, but instead of comparing the different age groups, we looked at category buyers. That is, we compared how ice-cream buyers responded to ice-cream ads, and how hair colour buyers responded to hair colour ads.

Here we saw a different story. For all the same metrics we saw that category buyers had higher scores than non-buyers. That is, they had much higher recall (+29%), and attracted scores that were more than double for likeability (+132%) and purchase consideration (+162%).

Category buyers had higher advertising recall, likeability and purchase consideration

This tells us that we should focus on category buyers, rather than concentrating efforts based on age groups. After all, it may be that many of your category buyers will include a large number of Millennials - but it’s more than likely it will only be a subset of this group, and will also include some aspirational Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers. What’s more, there are an increasing number of ways to reliably reach category buyers at scale, with many media businesses now leveraging more sophisticated data to enable us to move beyond basic demographics.

We believe this provides further evidence that marketers shouldn’t abandon ‘traditional’ marketing strategies that have been proven effective for all generations. As when it comes to advertising to Millennials, it seems that age is just another number.

Originally published on LinkedIn (Feb 2017) :

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