Millennials Don’t Want Typical Ads

Millennials are on entirely new platforms and devices compared with previous generations. They no longer watch TV or read magazines — they do most everything through technology.

Consumers have made mobile applications a prime location for retailers to place their advertising content. Brands have reworked their marketing strategies to compensate for this change in consumption, but this doesn’t seem to be enough. Even traditional ads are not resonating with millennials, regardless of where they are placed.

According to Matthew Tyson from Huffington Post, only 1 percent of millennials say that a compelling ad influences them and would make a brand more trustworthy. They don’t want to be blasted with information they are not asking for. If ads don’t mean anything to millennials, it doesn’t matter what the retailer is selling — they won’t influence them.

Millennials value authenticity and honesty. They know retailers are creating ads to try to get consumers to buy their products, and therefore, don’t see them as truthful. They find ways to skip commercials and avoid ads that pop up on social media. They simply are not influenced by advertising the same way their parents were.

However, I believe since these consumers spend such a vast majority of time on their phones on social media apps, retailers have perfect platform them to present advertising content. But as I noted earlier, it’s not just about being present on the right platforms, but it’s also about having the right content.

Ads have to find a way to connect and create an emotional attachment. They need to start featuring the content, the product, and an experience, not just bland facts. They have to speak to millennials in a way that will make them want to listen and trust the brand. Retailers have to approach millennials in a new way — one that focuses on authenticity and value, rather than sales.

A great way to create these relationships is through personal and meaningful ads. Are you more likely to stop and look at an ad that is personally addressed to you, or one that could be for anyone? By presenting ads that are geared towards consumers’ needs and interests, personalized ads receive higher click through rates, even though there’s fewer ads.

Another very effective (and very low cost) strategy is taking advantage of user-generated content, which is easier than ever to get a hold of with the rise of social media and online communities. Not only do millennials trust user-generated content 50 percent more than any other media, but they find it 35 percent more memorable than non-user-generated content, or traditional media. What better way to present consumers with the content they want to see than by having them create it themselves?

To take advantage of this new method, Sephora created the Beauty Board on its website that curates consumers’ photos from social media and shows off the products they are wearing in the pictures. From the Beauty Board, consumers can see exactly what a product looks like once it has been used, while allowing them to explore different products and shades, and even match skin tones with products. By giving consumers a point of reference, Sephora is using user-generated content to put forth genuine advocacies for its products.

Sephora Beauty Borad

Although there are many more effective ways to draw in millennials with ads, it’s clear these consumers respond very differently to such content than prior generations. They don’t want to be bothered by ads that they see as neither meaningful nor relevant, and therefore are very selective as to what they give their attention to.


To learn more about how millennials are influencing the retail world, pre-order my book, Talk Beauty to Me: How Marketers Can Speak the Language of Beauty to the Next Generation, here.

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