MARKETING TO MEN: MEDIA-SAVVY MAN - In the first of four features on the ages of man, Rhymer Rigby looks at ways of reaching the cynical twentysomething male

Young men of today - not only do they have no respect for their elders’ values, they also have scant regard for their advertising. Traditional TV and newspaper ads that might have 45-year-olds beating a path to their nearest out-of-town retail ’experience’ cut no ice with the men who are half their age. Indeed, to reach this particular group, advertisers have been forced to leave no stone unturned (and, some would argue, no depth unplumbed). So, we have ads in urinals, pulchritudinous telly presenters projected (sans kit) on to the Houses of Parliament, ads that insult you, ads that allude - usually fantastically obviously - to drug use, and so on. Each ’wackier than thou’ stunt is trying desperately to attract the attention of this deeply uninterested demographic.

Young men of today - not only do they have no respect for their

elders’ values, they also have scant regard for their advertising.

Traditional TV and newspaper ads that might have 45-year-olds beating a

path to their nearest out-of-town retail ’experience’ cut no ice with

the men who are half their age. Indeed, to reach this particular group,

advertisers have been forced to leave no stone unturned (and, some would

argue, no depth unplumbed). So, we have ads in urinals, pulchritudinous

telly presenters projected (sans kit) on to the Houses of Parliament,

ads that insult you, ads that allude - usually fantastically obviously -

to drug use, and so on. Each ’wackier than thou’ stunt is trying

desperately to attract the attention of this deeply uninterested

demographic.



This is serious - what has caused this advertising ’lost

generation’?



According to Jamie Furlong, a media planner at BMP OMD, ’they have

pretty much seen everything. They completely understand advertising and

it’s very difficult to sell them anything without coming across as

patronising.’ It’s true: those born between 1974 and 1981 are unlikely

to remember three-channel TV and will never have known a general

election where the Saatchis weren’t involved. ’It’s a generation with a

very low threshold for bullshit,’ adds Alistair McKenzie of the

communications consultancy, Smythe Dorward Lambert.



Faced with this lifelong barrage of ads, it’s hardly surprising that men

in their late teens and early twenties have become extremely efficient

at filtering out extraneous information. When they see a car ad, rather

than buying into all the lifestyle guff, they see a dull vehicle,

similar to every other; witty beer ads sell, er, alcohol; and so on. And

not only are they cynical, these men are also a very varied lot. ’I

think it’s a mistake to lump them all together,’ says Furlong. ’This age

is a development stage and they’re establishing themselves and their

identities.’ Clearly, an 18-year-old student living at home and a

25-year-old with his own flat will differ vastly in terms of spending

and decision-making power.



Given this mixture of disparity and disaffection, advertisers’ options

are limited. They can try to come up with something conventional which

piques the X-ers’ interest; they can try alternative or ’guerrilla’

advertising or they can attempt some combination of the two.



’We try to concentrate as much activity through non-traditional routes

as possible,’ says Mark Whelan of the youth agency, Cake. ’Instead of

spending a lot of money in lads’ mags, we try to do events where we

invite people - we created an Evian chill-out room in a Leeds club and

we do the Rizla cafe. Even when we do something conventional, we try to

make it attention-grabbing - like painting a street pink or sending up

the Apple Mac ’colours’ campaign. It’s all about entertainment.’



Certainly, this is the aim of guerrilla advertising, which has been

around for a while now. And, according to the outdoor advertising group,

Concord, this selling by surprise should be worth pounds 64 million this

year, up around pounds 10 million on last year and growing faster than

every other segment of the market. Hence, Emap Radio put heat-sensitive

stickers inside urinals in clubs and bars. When irrigated with suitably

warm liquid, an icon such as Liam Gallagher would appear next to an

appropriately tasteless slogan. Red Bull advertises on petrol pump

nozzles, Gail Porter appeared on the Houses of Parliament for FHM, and

Beck’s hired a field near the London-Birmingham train line and planted

contrasting vegetation to ’grow’ a 600ft beer bottle. All these ’wacky’

ads are designed to surprise - and capture the attention of - this

media-disaffected group.



Putting posters in loos has proved to be one of the most successful

tactics - you can guarantee you’re reaching only men. And Admedia, the

largest such UK business, looks after the conveniences at motorway

service areas and shopping centres across Britain, achieving more than

37 million ’male impacts’ a month. Its chief executive, Philip Vetch,

explains: ’You have a captive audience and no other advertising (there

is only one advertiser per washroom). You either look at the poster or

the tiles and you have 40-55 seconds of the consumer’s undivided

attention.’ Clients have included Pfizer and Loaded. And, says Vetch,

the results are often spectacular.



Gillette ran a campaign after which an NOP poll assessed its

effectiveness; those exposed to the washroom campaign had 91 per cent

unprompted recall (15 per cent is more usual). Moreover, in service

areas where magazines were both advertised and on sale, there was a

marked increase in sales of the advertised title to the detriment of its

competitors.



As well as being truly media savvy, this group is entirely comfortable

with computers. So it should come as no surprise that one of the best

ways to reach them is via the internet. ’This generation’s media is very

e-based,’ explains McKenzie, ’and the internet fits well with their

desire to see everything that’s on offer, then choose.’ Again, Gillette

has used the internet to great effect: when it wanted to market its Mach

3 to 16- to 34-year-olds, ads on websites for Capital FM, GQ and FHM

were part of the campaign.



As these sites often shared visitors, it achieved repeat reinforcement

as browsers saw the ad on site after site. Internet advertising also

works well when it is combined with other forms - web addresses are easy

to remember, they can be posted anywhere and they provide a way of

measuring effectiveness.



Increasingly, it is this combined approach that is the way forward.



Advertising used to be all about the product and the message. For

today’s young men, it is also about the way the message is delivered.

And advertisers will have to use every channel to reach them.



As Whelan says: ’The traditional advertising pound just doesn’t deliver

like it used to.’



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