The Entertainer: Youth and Advertising

You see the pictures all the time. It's an advertiser's nightmare, one of those where you're stuck in a room but you're sure there's an exit somewhere: Teenagers and young adults surrounded by technology, talking on the phone while they watch television. Not paying attention to advertising at all.

Entertainment is the key to grabbing the attention of young people
Entertainment is the key to grabbing the attention of young people

Or, you hear the opposite: it’s all viral. You can create thousands of advocates for your advertising and brands because of You Tube and Facebook and Twitter and insert name of any social networking site here.
So, what’s the truth?

In reality, it’s somewhere in between. Yes, there are a lot of things – both online and offline – competing for their attention. But they also share content with each other all of the time, often without even thinking about it in that way. So, it’s not black, not white, but grey. Does figuring it all out sound more like a nightmare than the best dream you’ve ever had? There’s nothing to be scared of. You just need to look before you leap.
Entertainment is the key. From our pre-testing databases we know already that it is an important tool in generating cut-through. Our research on 16-24 year olds tells us that it’s all the more so among that group. For traditional above the line advertising, especially video viewed on any screen, this age group has the expectation of being entertained.
Because they are often online or on the phone while they are watching, entertaining ads are more likely to make them look up or click over to the window, rather than fast-forwarding through. Eye-popping visuals and ear-catching tunes undoubtedly help, as do clever interactive elements that draw them in. But, ultimately, they enjoy ads that are "a little film, more than making you feel it’s an advert," as one 21-year-old participant put it.
Entertainment is the bridge to virality, too. Within this age group, social is key. Content plays an essential role because it is social currency. Ads that play on this, using strong music, creating an in-joke or entertaining, are more likely to ‘go viral’ among 16-24-year-olds. And, thanks to YouTube, they have also have access to anything and everything you have ever done. So, the in-joke or exclusivity can be built on your brand’s advertising heritage.
This makes good branding all the more critical for the advertising to do a good job. If I’m searching for and sharing your ad on You Tube, I need to know what brand the ad is for in order to find it. What’s more, while we know from our database research that advertising impacts the brand whether or not people recall it, when people can link it to the brand, the impact is significantly stronger. The brand should not be lost in the entertainment.
Given the role that entertainment plays in cut-through for this group, the 360° approach can help to create a clear picture of the brand. Each platform has its role to play by recalling the brand story, from entertaining to informing. For example, if TV (on any screen) is entertaining, the website needs to be spot on and easy to navigate to get information.
What a fun and exciting creative challenge! Entertainment is a must if you are going after the wily young adult target. At its heart, strong advertising remains a good story, well told.

Tara Beard-Knowland is a director of Ipsos ASI