Will the Future Like Advertising? What Millennials Want from Ads

Does advertising have a future? Ask John Battelle or Mark Zuckerberg and they’d flash a thumbs-up. But recent research shows that the answer is somewhat more nuanced. The folks at comScore report that Millennials don’t log as many impressions from ads as other generations. No surprise there, given notorious nano-second attention spans. More striking is the finding that ads that did break through earned more mind share among Millennials.

“Millennials demonstrated a higher propensity than other generations to retain a lasting impression of an advertisement.”

Here’s hoping that revelations like this will usher in a renaissance in advertising via the digital culture. Until now, online campaigns have favored real estate (banner placement) over creativity. In fact, some people in the ad business are starting to question the validity of their own discipline. Consider Barbarian Group’s spunky protest of digital billboards in Time Square. Their premise is that advertising pollutes public spaces. Said another way, the advertising detracts from life experience.

Last time I was in Times Square, I was struck by the Maxell ad. It’s visual shorthand for being blown away. And it’s iconic. Very recently, I had a conversation with my physical trainer, a Millennial, who referenced the ad. She couldn’t recall the brand, just the image

Creating breakthrough advertising for the digital space is critical to the future of e-commerce. It’s not viable to keep launching and growing social networks based on an advertising business model, when so few ads are hitting the sweet spot.

Experts in search marketing believe the future is in pure content delivery, not ads. Time will tell. Still, there has been very little in the way of creative use of the web medium for ads that earn iconic status. Old Spice guy comes to mind–but the banner ad was a pull-through to the YouTube channel.

There is no doubt. The Internet is now the dominant medium. But can it deliver ads that break through in these 3 ways?

1. Visually arresting
2. Delivers immediate emotional connection
3. Life enhancing, not detracting

Oh, and to succeed as an ad, it must sell something. Think about the ads you encounter online. Belly fat sketches and dancing peeps. Meet the criteria? Ruefully, no. Here’s the rainbow: it’s an opportunity awaiting a the next creative wave of talent. And hopefully, among them, will be Millennials.