Divided generations: what can generational theory teach us about advertising to the young and old?

Youth Flowers is a 69 year old Baby Boomer DJ. Living it young like the new old should.

Most of us in advertising belong either to Generation Y (born between mid-seventies and mid-nineties, characterised by a sense of presumed self-importance) or Generation X (born between mid-seventies and sixties, those are the ones drinking to avoid going home), and we’re generally aware of our own generations’ needs and habits. However, as Baby Boomers (born before mid-sixties) approach retirement and Generation Z (born later than mid-nineties) start having disposable incomes of their own, it’s worth looking at what these groups are really like, as their views and lifestyles aren’t like ours – or how we’d expect them to be.

Baby Boomers

For the first time, the under 16s are outnumbered by pensioners, as the Baby Boom Generation are reaching retirement. These Baby Boomers are, despite their old age, maintaining their place as the dominant economic force in consumer UK, as argued by ‘two brains’ Willets in his book The Pinch. They hold more than 80 per cent of the nation’s £6.7trn in wealth, they have been the main beneficiaries of the property boom, and have comparatively decent pensions.

Despite youth culture dominating society, the old are the ones who can afford to live like youngsters, with young people paying for expensive mortgages, university fees, and their parents’ pensions. Our language is infused with terms that capture the enduring youth of older generations – kidulthood, menoporsche, grandboomer, middleyouth – and our technology uptake is now driven by older gadget lovers. In addition, Baby Boomers increasingly opt for partial retirement, slowing the transition from work to full time gardening. When retired, their main priorities are their hobbies, holiday homes, and their financial future – often achieved through “skiing” (an abbreviation for spending the kids’ inheritance). In recent years, we’ve increasingly seen the entertainment industry and popular culture responding to their needs, with the Dome full of bands from the Baby Boomers’ youth, and films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel getting mass audiences in cinemas

A constantly connected generation

Though outnumbered by Baby Boomers, there is a new generation – Generation Z – that is starting to experience the joys of disposable income for the first time. However, unlike Boomers, they appear to have a very conservative set of hopes for the future. A ‘Generations apart’ series for Radio 4 recently conducted interviews with older members of Generation Z and found that the main hopes of those interviewed were for decent work, stable housing, and a contented family life.

This generation has grown up during mass unemployment, economic uncertainty and fear of terrorism, and many argue that this experience has conditioned this generation into rejecting the radicalism of previous generations and focusing instead on working hard to get the basic things in life. As a result, they are becoming servants to convention – less liberal, less experimental and not creating rebellious niche sub-cultures that their parents used to belong to.  We might see advertising targeted at the youth moving to focus more on values such as safety, security, stability, and ‘normality’.

The way this messaging is delivered will undoubtedly change as well. Generation Z have grown with a multi-screen, digitally connected world being the norm. This will impact how advertisers try to reach this new group, with joined up digital messaging increasingly becoming commonplace.

In addition, towns are divided up by age (into old, middle-aged and young areas) more than ever before. For instance, town centres now have no bingo halls, but an abundance of wine bars. Consequently, outdoor advertising could soon be more effective at targeting youth (as well as other age groups).

Even though the generation is less radical, it will have some high expectations, having grown up during the democratisation of luxury; to them, a posh hand bag is a statement that should be afforded by anyone, not just the rich. They’ve also spent much of their youth receiving content and entertainment for free, adding to their heightened and hard-to-meet expectations.

(Sub) Culture Marketing

Brands seek cultural capital by aligning themselves with underground talent

The use of celebrity endorsement has been a long established technique for brands looking to expand, create a buzz or gain some level of fame. However, an obvious disparity between the values or interests of the chosen endorser and those of the brand may lead to public cynicism. In addition a misjudged communication strategy can lead to infamy rather than fame, highlighted by Snickers’ promoted tweet campaign which received an unfavourable response.

Avoiding these concerns, many brands are focusing instead on investment in culture rather than on any one particular individual to endorse their brand or product. Colin Drummond of Ogilvy West argues this approach is ‘established by a brand looking to be a facilitator of culture, broadening the horizons past simply focusing on the benefits of the product alone’. Red Bull have been the pioneers in the way of culture led marketing, establishing a music academy in 1998, involving participants from across the globe and notable artists running seminars every year.

There have been other notable examples of brands looking to connect with consumers in a broad cultural landscape. These include the Smirnoff nightlife exchange project featuring Madonna and Garnier’s pop up salons at summer music festivals. However, recently some brands have been directing their activities outside of the mainstream, as an alternative strategy in pursuit of cultural relevancy. Here are some examples:

In promotion of a new Sportswear range, Nike’s ‘Always On’ campaign included a multitude of vignettes featuring up and coming unsigned artists, creating original tracks to accompany visuals that starred athletes of varying degrees of popularity from a number of sports. The video below focuses on the annual Dyckman basketball tournament in Harlem, New York which is organised by the community and features amateur stars within the sub culture of streetball. The soundtrack is provided by Harlem artist Vado. It features no overt product messaging and integrates the brand into the storyline. The focus is on cultural relevance among a sub-genre and, in a broader context, support of local community.


 

Moving further away from any kind of product placement (besides a not-so-subtly worn baseball cap), Reebok have recently partnered with unsigned New York artists Action Bronson & Party Supplies. Part of Reebok’s classic sessions campaign. They financed an entire project available for free download, establishing Reebok’s investment in music and the creative process. Again, there is an absence of any product messaging, besides casual references dropped into conversation in the below video. As you will note, the only overt branding is the Reebok logo at the beginning and end of the video. The focus is on entertaining the consumer’s cultural interests, creating a greater possibility of sharing the content.


 

Besides simply investing in the normal activities of an artist, some brands are looking to involve cultural figures as creative directors. Expanding on the role of simple endorser and providing a platform to put their talents to work on behalf of the brand. Again, there are examples of this on a grander scale, such as Lady Gaga designing a product for Polaroid or Jean Paul Gaultier for Diet Coke.

Contrastingly, Sony, in their bid for cultural relevance, has looked towards underground personalities enlisting Prodigy (New York rapper), Mike Posner (singer/songwriter) and Steve Aoki (electro house musician) to curate a cover for their new Sony S Tablet, in a social media tie in with fashion magazine Complex. The interviews featuring each artist involve both the product and personality in equal measure; the value created is in the selection of those individuals, helping to leverage cultural respect and authenticity. It will be interesting to see if other brands follow suit and value cultural marketing as a key component of brand promotion in the U.K.

March Madness: inspiring cross-platform campaigns from the U.S.

The month of March ushers in the closing period of the Premiership and commencement of training for all cricketers of the country. However, across the Atlantic it means one thing: March Madness, the annual College basketball tournament which continues to garner huge interest, captivating a TV and, increasingly, a social media audience. This provides an opportunity for brands to get in on the action as official sponsors or otherwise. To put the scale of March Madness in perspective, the TV deal with the governing body the NCAA is currently $10.8 billion over 14 years (bear in mind that’s just 14 months’ worth of coverage!). Although all current activity is primarily for the U.S. market, I thought it would be interesting to run down some of the innovative campaigns over this period, as brands look to integrate their promotions across of forms of media.

Coca-Cola has introduced a multitude of platforms to encourage engagement via social media, including texts for prizes during live games, and is also the sponsor of the official social arena, which allows fans to share game content and discuss games with others, accessed via the Coke Zero website.

It has also used the opportunity to invest in the marketing of its energy drink Powerade, launching a commercial alongside a Facebook page which offers the chance to win tickets to the Final Game. In addition, they have also teamed up with convenience store chain 7Eleven to produce souvenir cups which hold a QR code providing a link to the Powerade website and a video of a selected memorable moment of the tournament, hosted by former players.

The Nissan-owned car firm Infinity has launched a campaign involving social marketing and philanthropy. Announced via a promoted tweet, it promises to donate money to the American Cancer Society for every correct tournament bracket pick made via its website. 

Other sponsors Dominos, Reeces and UPS find their Facebook pages now dominated by March Madness, with opportunities for prizes, encouraging engagement with the brands page during games.

Unilever launched Dove’s ‘Journey to comfort’ campaign featuring stories from former and current basketball players. The ad is accompanied by a Facebook page where people are encouraged to share their own stories, a dedictated website and also an app which allows you to send a personal message to Shaq (featured below), interacting with the brand and the personality.

As you can see, these ‘corporate champions’ have come up with some original ideas, enabling them to engage the consumer by idenfiying shared values and or interests despite there being no immediate connection to basketball itself. They provide inspiration for future campaigns focused on cross platform engagement.

Plato, Aristotle and the art of telling brand stories

Just to show that insights and inspiration can come from any source, I’m going to transport you back to the intellectual cauldron that was ancient Athens.

Sam Leith’s recent book on the lost art of rhetoric, ‘You Talkin’ To Me?’ draws heavily on the the principles of public speaking and framing of persuasive arguments from an age before Gutenberg let alone Google.

He isolates the three key elements of a persuasive argument:

Ethos – my credibility

Logos – the rational reasons for my argument

Pathos – my emotional appeal to you

These approaches and their combination are basically what we build for brands when we tell their stories, either via crafting content or working out how to build a plan to fit the consumer journey.

I saw a really inspiring presentation from an M&C Saatchi planner this week that also suggested that in combinations of two, these principles are great foundations for building brand positionings. His argument was that by using all three there is a danger of being all things to all men.

Anyway there you have it. Check out Sam Leith and his search for the perfect rhetorical argument and get a different perspective on your planning issue.

Farewell to the COI

                                                     

The government, among other advertisers, has been using insights from disciplines such as behavioural economics and social psychology to change the public’s behaviour for the better. Launching campaigns such as Change4Life, and with the NHS supporting educational TV programmes such as the Food Hospital, it has started to put the wealth of insight offered by these sciences to good use, and seen some impressive results.

These campaigns have been a great start towards trying to change lifestyles but the government has not fully followed through with their efforts. Amidst all the other budget cuts, the government froze the £540m-a-year COI ad budget (to focus only on ‘essential’ campaigns) until March 2011, followed by a reduction in ad spend by 50% thereafter.  Finally, by the end of the month, the COI will cease to exist as the government has decided to make different departments responsible for their own communications.

The Change4Life campaign initially showed the promise of success. However, since the cuts have been made, there has been a significant drop in the number of visits to the campaign website and to calls requesting information.

This could, as the government is probably aware, be a false economy, and the deterioration of public health can have wide-reaching and costly long-term effects. Ignoring the nation’s unhealthy habits could lead to more government spending on healthcare – potentially undoing the savings made by slashing the communications budget. In addition, an unhealthy society could lead to a less productive workforce – costing the government even more money. Given how effective the Change4Life campaign has been, it would be great to see the government reinvest its time, effort and money to engage with behavioural change communications.

We hope that even with the COI closed down, the government will be able to continue producing creative and effective behavioural change campaigns, like the one below – Kathy Can’t Sleep ad from the late 1980s, promoting safe driving under the slogan ‘drinking and driving wrecks lives’. It depicts a little girl Kathy whose dad got into a fatal accident, leaving the family to deal with the consequences of his actions.

‘Super Bowl Super Social’ with The Guardian

Here is some of the most thought provoking creative work of the last few weeks.
The new BBH ad for The Guardian featuring the trial of the three little pigs is the latest of BBH’s ‘super bowl super social’ ads. These have been developed on the basis that investment in landmark content creates social ripples that reduce the need for high ATL frequency. So spend more on the ad and less on media, handpicking where and when it gets exposed.
So this gives us a super clever ad extoling the virtues of open journalism and a launch event in C4 News on 29th February.

The big question – how well did it do?
• 768k views on You Tube to date which seems to be flattening out.
• 8k tweets with a potential reach of 20m.
• Most popular with Men 45 -54.
• Almost universally approved by You Tube raters.
On the other hand there appeared to be no increase in searches for relevant terms.
So does Super Bowl Super Social work?
The gold old fashioned ABCs may help us work that out in this case.

Google Re:Brief – Re-imagining TV adverts for the digital age

In light of changing screen based media behaviour, Walker Media recently brought together our TV and display teams to form the new Screen Team. By uniting the best of broadcast and digital display we can ensure that we offer a cohesive approach to the consumer journey, reflecting the ever increasing connectedness of screen based media behaviour.

To mark the changing nature of consumer interaction with screen media and to celebrate 18 years of Internet advertising, Google designed Project Re:Brief. Google challenged four global brands to remake iconic TV ads as digital campaigns to show how online media can be used creatively to engage and entertain rather than bombarding the consumer with sales pitches.

Coca-Cola chose to bring alive the feel good charm of the “Hilltop” TV ad from 1971, in which a group of people sing about wanting to buy the world a coke. This was done via Google’s display advertising platform and a series of bespoke vending machines around the world. Users can record a message and send it along with a Coca-Cola to connect with someone on the other side of the world. The recipient can then respond with a text or video message to thank the sender, completing the connection.

It is a rare occasion to see someone tweet about a new display ad or for someone to wax lyrical about a pop up online ad in the same way they would about a great TV ad. Projects like this are encouraging as they highlight the need for a new wave of digital advertising which captures the imagination of people.