Reaching Millennials with Digital Advertising

A Throwback Top Stats of the Week

In our May 2015 edition, we examined how Millennials consume digital media and provided a few solutions to help advertisers reach young adults.

Defining “Millennial”

It can be difficult to accurately describe the term “millennial.” The tangible parameters are easy enough to define – a millennial is generally considered an individual born from 1980 to 1997, roughly between the age of 18 and 35. But the phrase has evolved to symbolize much more than that. Millennial has become a buzzword rife with less-than-favorable connotations, a stereotype for a generation that hates stereotypes.

At 28 years old I’m one of the maligned generation’s middle children. And I’m OK with that for the most part. As a digital marketer, part of my job is understanding different audiences, and the numbers show my generation is far more complex than the stereotypes suggest.

According to NPR, the millennial generation is the largest in the U.S., making up 28.7 percent of the population (baby boomers are second at 23.7 percent); it’s also the most diverse (43 percent nonwhite), the most educated (34 percent with at least a bachelor’s degree) and the most independent (average age of first marriage – 27 years for women, 29 for men vs. 20 and 23 in 1960, respectively).

The Digital Generation

If millennials do have a defining characteristic, it’s the distinction of being the first digital-native generation. Comprised of millions of young adults who grew up with the Internet, millennials are more comfortable handling a smartphone than a pencil and a pad of paper. Millennials spend so much time with devices that 68 percent report suffering from “digital eye strain.” Our obsession with all things digital is causing us to go blind, and it’s like we don’t even care…

#1: 85 Percent of Millennials Own a Smartphone

One of the reasons millennials spend so much time squinting at digital devices is the fact we have one on us at all times. Smartphone usage among millennials is the highest of any demographic or sub-demographic in the U.S., according to a study by the Pew Research Center. And millennials (classified as ages 18-29 in the Pew study) use their phones for a variety of tasks:

  • More than 90 percent access social media sites
  • Three-fourths watch digital video
  • Almost two-thirds listen to music or podcasts

Mobile advertising solutions are particularly appealing for brands looking to attract younger adults. Brands can reach millennials with mobile search ads, display ads on mobile websites, in-app ads, etc.

#2: 83 Percent of Millennials Have a Facebook Account

Of the 90 percent of millennials who use their phones to access social media, the majority are probably logging on to check Facebook. As shown on the included chart, Facebook usage is high among millennials across all sub-demographics, according to research from Harvard University.

This consistency makes Facebook an ideal platform for brands to place ads with broad appeal. But for products with more precise appeal, brands may want to target sub-demographics on other social platforms. Let’s look at a real-life example: Kraft Foods became one of the first brands to advertise on Pinterest when they started running promoted pins in 2014. The company wanted to focus on younger, adult women and was promoting food products requiring visually appealing ad creatives.

Kraft chose Pinterest because it provided a more targeted audience and was well-suited for sharing food tips and recipes. Kraft said they were able to reach women ages 25 to 34 more effectively, noting most were inexperienced cooks who wanted to learn by using their recipes.

#3: 70 Percent of Millennials Prefer to Use Search Engines to Research Products

Search engines are far and away the most popular method for U.S. millennials to research products and price compare, according to a 2015 study conducted by The Media Insight Project.

Another study by Principal Financial Group looked at what channel millennials (ages 25-34) prefer to use when researching specific verticals. Search engines were the preferred method to look up information on each vertical, including insurance companies, retail stores and financial institutions.

Paid ads on major search engines like Google and Bing are an effective way to target the millennials conducting these searches. In verticals like retail and financial institutions, searches are often conducted with local intent, meaning the searcher wants to find a nearby location. Advertisers can take advantage of these ready-to-convert customers by developing hyper-local paid search campaigns.