Millennials are experts at ignoring what they don’t care about – regardless of ad blockers.
“Millennials don’t necessarily follow the rules of marketing,” said Kathryn Minshew, CEO and founder of millennial-centric career and job site The Muse, speaking at eMarketer’s Attention event in New York City on Tuesday. “They don’t look where you want them to look and they won’t necessarily play the game.”
It’s a game in which the rules used to be fairly straightforward: If consumers want something for free, say a piece of content or access to a social network, they have to pay with their attention, or at least a little bit of their time. It’s meant to be a value exchange – or that’s the theory, at least.
But “this straightforward exchange of ads for some valuable content often has an obligatory feel to it,” said Matthew Crawford, a research fellow at the University of Virginia and author of the recently published book, “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.”
“The whole premise behind the idea of an exchange is a contract you enter into freely with plenty of alternatives to do otherwise – and feeling that there’s an obligatory character to it is what I think makes people irritated,” Crawford said.
In other words, consumers, especially millennials, choose to engage in ad avoidance, a behavior that leads to out-and-out ad blocking.
However, “intrusive advertising is just the tip of a much larger cultural iceberg,” Crawford said. “We’re living through a crisis of attention and, it’s fair to say, a widespread sense of mental fragmentation. Often it feels that our attention isn’t ours to direct as we will.”
The logical next step from burnout is tune-out.
“It’s clear to me why consumers are tuning out and taking control,” said Collective CEO Joe Apprendi. “I completely understand why millennials are walking around with their earbuds and their eyes on their phones … [and] if we don’t swiftly modernize our communication tactics and leverage our creativity, these millennials will soon be redefined as unreachables.”
To that end, a number of brands are starting to experiment with what Rob Fishman, co-founder of Niche, called “advertising that doesn’t look like content, but that is, in fact content.” [Twitter acquired Niche, a startup that connects social creators with advertisers, in February.]
For instance, when Hewlett-Packard used Niche to promote its convertible laptop/tablet last August, it worked with creators to develop a series of six-second Vines, later recasting the content as a national TV commercial.
“The challenge and the opportunity of short form platforms is that you can’t just run an ad before them – with a six-second Vine, you can’t show a 15-second pre-roll,” Fishman said. “Advertisers have to actually come up with something new.”
It’s a valid point in a world inhabited by this recent statistic from Strata: 41.3% of people in the US skip ads before they even know who the advertiser is.