31 October, 2009

Did your children really come from another planet?

Melbourne Herald Sun, 31st October, 2009
Did our children really come from another planet - or under all the clothes, the talk, the music are they really little copies of us?

Putting this in business terms, the questions are: does all our expensive advertising appeal in the same way to each generation, do they use the same media, are they even looking?

A recently published report from Luma Research is bound to draw a sigh of relief. Yes they are different - but not that different.

It’ll come as no surprise that the oldies - 45 plus - spend two-thirds more time in front of the TV than a teenager. What is surprising is that they also spend three times more hours on the internet. So what do those teenyboppers get up to when they’re not in sight? Let’s put a good face on it and hope they are attending to their studies.

You can’t accuse the survey of being too narrow. Over 20 years they questioned 240,000 people in 50 countries. Definitely a representative sample.

But what every business person wants to know is: do people even notice my ads? And what is it that makes them buy?

Teens are more aware of advertising than their elders but this does not make them any more responsive. Uniformly, right across the generations, before the consumer will respond to the ad - and buy the product - they have to develop a relationship with it, what the researchers call “bonding”.

They have to like the ad. Respond to it, feel that it is talking to them. If that happens they will be pulled to your product, they will probably buy it. No surprises there - except for those who think that if they scream loudly enough out of the TV, the customer will be bludgeoned into submission.

Certainly different kinds of ads bond in different ways. If they are buying a car and you have the model they want at the price they expect to pay, a line ad in our classified pages will do the trick. It’s purely information. They will also look on the web, in local newspapers - they are just seeking their goal.

But as soon as you start promoting which car they should buy, and how much they ought to spend - then you are getting into image, fashion, relationship. This is where the emotional bonding comes in.

Our gen Zs, the teenagers, like stories and fantasy - not surprising. Their older siblings Gen Y (under 30s) respond to narration ads, telling a more straightforward message in words and pictures. But in the end it all comes down to the quality of the idea behind the ad, and the skill in promoting the benefits, in other words being creative.

This is where too many of the ads you’ll see on tonight’s TV, or in this weekend’s magazines, fall down. Look at them with a critical eye. Do they have personality? Is there any that makes you laugh or yearn or respond? It’s these emotions that create the bond, that make the ad - and the product - your friend.

Even though you and your kids have different reasons for choosing friends, across the generation divide, the mechanism of friendship remains the same. So it is with advertising, underneath we are no different. This is where the execution needs to be lined up with the age group and their concerns and fashions of the day.

But as far as the choice of the internet as an advertising medium, the surprising outcome of this research is that it is far more effective in reaching the Gen X and Baby Boomers (35+) than their kids. It’s mum and dad that are hogging the data line, while the kids go off onto their own planet.


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