Young and old on different planets for ad campaigns

tv watchingBrands that are trying to appeal to mass audiences – no matter what their age – are facing an uphill battle, with the split between how younger and older generations consume commercial media turning into a chasm over the past five years.

While it hardly takes a genius to work out that, bar Love Island and possibly Britain’s Got Talent, young people barely know what is on the telly from one night to the next, the way media is now consumed is making life hard for both marketers and their agencies.

According to the IPA’s “Making sense. The commercial media landscape”, there has never been a greater need to deploy diverse media plans to maximise overall campaign performance.

According to the report, back in 2015, nearly three-fifths (58%) of 16- to 34-year-olds and those aged over 55 consumed media in a similar way; that fell by more than half to 25% by 2019.

Although less marked, a similar story is seen when looking at the reach of channels; in 2015, 44% of young and old embraced the same channels, this dropped to 35% in 2019, and is further proof of increasingly disparate media behaviours between these age groups, the IPA said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the fact that most under 35s are superglued to their screens, the driving force behind the change is the rapid rise of the smartphone.

The report, sponsored by Facebook, is designed to help advertisers and their agencies to better understand the commercial media landscape – and no doubt ensure that marketers continue to hand over their cash to the social media giant (see last two paragraphs).

Featuring analysis from Adam & Eve DDB group head of effectiveness Les Binet, the research uses IPA TouchPoints data to break down today’s broad commercial media landscape, to see how consumers are spending their “media day”, and how media behaviours are diversifying across different age groups.

Across all adults, two media channels (commercial TV and outdoor advertising) command the highest reach and time spent, followed by “functional Internet” and social media.

Meanwhile, the two primary media channels for 16- to 34-year olds are social media (who knew?) and outdoor advertising (which is more of a surprise as it requires young people to actually look up from their phones).

The amount of time all adults spend with digital media has increased by nearly a fifth (19%) in five years, from 42% in 2015 to 50% in 2019. This growth is particularly prevalent among, yes, you guessed it, the 16-34s, who spend 73% of their time with digital channels, up from 59% in 2015, marking a 24% growth in five years.

Even so, despite the apparent meteoric rise of Netflix to 37% weekly reach of all adults, the split between commercial and non-commercial curated media share of time has only changed by one percentage point since 2015. Meanwhile, the average time spent with all curated media each day has remained exactly the same at 8 hours and 27 minutes.

Adam & Eve’s Binet is pretty blunt in his assessment of the situation, arguing that the digital transformation of media “probably won’t be complete until the pre-Internet generation is dead and buried”.

However, while he believes this makes life more complex for marketers, it also makes it more interesting. Binet added: “We need to master a wider range of channels now, but we can use them to evoke a wider range of effects.”

IPA senior research and marketing manager Simon Frazier said: “It is clear from the results of this report that a ‘one size fits all’ media approach is likely to be less effective than it was previously. Whilst broad reach is still essential for profitable brand growth, how advertisers achieve that broad reach is becoming more varied across age groups.”

True to form, Facebook sees only one solution for marketers and that is, of course, to keep ploughing the adspend into digital channels because they are, to coin a phrase, “the future”.

Facebook connection planner Pete Buckley enthused: “These shifts mean it’s becoming increasingly important for the industry to grow its digital brand-building muscle, since focusing on these channels as short-term response drivers alone may result in brands missing out on the biggest opportunity of our generation.”

Whether 16-34s actually have any cash to spend is another matter…

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