Marketers have been coveting the attention of 18-to-34 year-olds since the middle of the last century. What’s changed is that there used to be tried and true methods to do just that. Today it’s essentially a crapshoot.
Blame it on cellphones. According to an article in the NY Times today, 18-to-24 year-olds spend an average of 91 hours a month on their smartphone apps. That’s about 18 hours more than people who are 35 to 44, and 33 hours more than 45-to-54 year-olds. To complicate matters, it’s a lot harder to reach someone using an app than on a web browser where you can at least put up banner ads and pray for clicks.
Put simply, advertisers are only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to reaching people who live on their phones. But that’s not for lack of trying. Some brands are seeing if there’s any value in coming up with their own emojis, since millennials are so fond of using them. Dominos, as one example lets customers order pizza by texting or tweeting a pizza emoji.
GE is currently testing an emoji campaign on Snapchat. (Snapchat and Instagram only recently opened their services to advertisers.) Messaging apps offered by Facebook and WhatsApp do not have any ads, as yet.
At this point, agencies are willing to try just about anything to reach millennials. Some are hosting annual music events. Others are having success creating their own apps, but these tend to be successful only when they provide a service that’s seen as valuable – like tracking fitness performance or sleep habits.
It’s all an ongoing experiment. The days where you could simply purchase a few spots on Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show to create some millennial buzz are behind us. Whoever comes up with something that people will actually pay attention to on that very small screen will change the course of marketing history. And make a whole lot of money as well.