About William Hanmer-Lloyd

Planner/Analyst

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.

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Practical applications of mood-based advertising

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What we share on social media gives an insight into our moods - and advertisers are using this information to deliver targeted ads.

In a previous post, I looked into the growing body of research analysing how consumers’ moods affect their response to different types of advertising content. In this post, I will look at the ways in which this has been incorporated into advertising solutions in practice.

With the rise of social media, advertisers have a window into consumers’ moods and needs at any point in time – offered by their status updates, the sentiment of their tweets, social search or even the songs they’re listening to. Two comprehensive studies on Twitter data have provided an insight into people’s mood changes throughout the day. The studies suggest that there are universal patterns; people are grumpy when they wake up, brighten up during the morning, and their mood goes into decline again during the afternoon. Moods also improve very late in the evening to peak two hours before and two hours after midnight and at weekends during 8am to 11am.Unsurprisingly, the happiest time of the week is 5pm to 6pm on a Friday  (I personally find that to be the sweetest tasting drink).

In addition, Facebook has continually talked about its ability to build a “mood detector” which would enable advertisers to start targeting their ads by mood. This could possibly extend to all online ads, if Facebook becomes the dominant destination for online activity.

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Moodagent is a new Spotify app that allows users to generate mood-based playlists - and advertisers to place their ads in between suitable songs.

Moodagent, a recently launched Spotify app, is a tool that enables consumers to generate playlists suited to their mood, and allows advertisers to match their ads to the mood of the songs that a consumer is listening to. Peter Berg Steffensen, CEO at Moodagent said: “Our knowledge of emotional analytics, user behaviour and perception, combined with the ability to connect this data with specific products, provides us with the key to an unparalleled precision for targeting audio advertisement.”

Outside of digital, mood-based technology is also used in outdoor, with the development of ‘gladvertising’ (inventing a “clever” pun to name a new development always seems to make us in advertising happy). Using a face-tracking algorithm to match movements of the eyes and mouth to six expression patterns corresponding to happiness, anger, sadness, fear, surprise and disgust, digital outdoor will allow marketers to talk to consumers with tailored adverts.

Even though this area of research is still in its infancy, media owners are already developing the technology to match the potential of mood-based advertising. Essentially, this could give us new ways to fit creative and media strategies together, adding yet another layer to the communications planning process.

Targeting ads by moods

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Negative moods alter the way we absorb information, making us engage in a more rational way with messaging.

At any particular moment in time, we are in a certain mental state that will affect how we absorb, remember and act upon the advertising we see, and although our mood is personal and often based upon specific individual circumstances at any given moment (why hasn’t she texted me yet, why only one kiss? what do you mean clingy?) it can be generally guessed at based upon the place and content that an ad fits in to – think of the stress in a crowded tube carriage in the morning or the excitement in a cinema lounge before an Aaron Sorkin movie.  Various recent research papers have started to shed light on how consumers’ moods affect their response to different types of advertising content.

A recent study, “The Effects of Positive Mood on Memory”, suggests that a positive mood enhances the learning of brand names by “prompting the classification of brands on the basis of their category membership, which then serves as an effective cue for brand name retrieval”. Another study, “Consumers’ mood states: Antecedents and consequences of experiential versus informational strategies for brand choice”, goes further suggesting that negative and positive moods directly affect how an ad is incorporated into our memory, suiting different types of ad content. A positive mood (and according to recent news reports, magic mushrooms) encourages us to absorb information in an experiential way, associating content with feelings and mood, while a negative mood encourages us to process ads in an informational way, weighing up a more rational input-output relationship to the proposition.

On the opposite end of the emotion spectrum, a research paper called “Fear and Loving in Las Vegas: Evolution, Emotion, and Persuasion” suggests that targeting content that induces fear (scary movies or, personally, movies with Cher) will help products that are trying to make social claims, but harm those that encourage an individual to stand out, when the content has unconsciously encouraged them to seek the safety of the group. Conversely, targeting romantic desire works best for products that suggest they help you stand out as, when aroused, people unconsciously want to be noticed as different and better in order to attract a mate.

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When people are stressed out, they are more likely to give in to temptation.

One area that has been researched more thoroughly is the effect of stress on reducing cognitive resources. Stress reduces the part of the brain that normally controls emotional urges. This means when stressed or mentally occupied we are more likely to give into temptation (and possibly take on board emotional messaging), as we can’t control our emotional impulses. This suggests for example that although positive analysis suggests chocolate advertising would suit positive moods, when our minds are absorbing content in an experiential manner, it may also be beneficial to target stressed consumers when there is an opportunity for purchase, such as on trains and in shopping centres.

In addition to our moods, there are other factors that can affect our memory and level of persuasion. These range from the time of day affecting ad recall, with adverts shown in the morning scoring higher on memory encoding, recall, comprehension, attention, and liking due to people having higher cortisol levels upon waking, to the strong relationship between caffeine consumption and persuasion, with those who have higher caffeine blood levels, appearing more open to persuasion than those who don’t.

As yet there is limited data on the numerical benefit of ad content targeted by mood, compared to factors such as cost, reach and frequency, on which we have plenty of data. However, it appears to be an area of growing importance, with the development of outdoor ‘gladvertising’ (digital outdoor adverts that react to consumers’ moods by using emotion recognition software) and the emerging opportunities to use social media to target people by mood.

Priming the brain: making consumers enjoy the brand more

Branded painkillers have been shown to be more effective than non-branded painkillers.

 

The extent to which we will enjoy/benefit from a product or service is dictated not just by the inherent utility of the product or service, but by the extent to which we expect to enjoy/benefit from a product or service.  Depending upon what we expect, and how we have been primed, the frontal lobes either inhibit or amplify the activity of the emotional brain.

This plays an important role for brands, and is most famously captured by the fact that Coca Cola tastes better than unnamed cola only in non-blind taste tests (when consumers can’t see the brand they can’t tell the difference). What neuroscientific research has shown us is that not only do consumers think they enjoy branded Coke more, they actually enjoy it more.

This effect has been captured in products (by psychology professors such as Dan Ariely) the utility of which is not enjoyment but other benefits, such as branded pain killers reducing pain to a greater degree and branded energy drinks improving mental performance more. The effect of branding makes the experience of the product objectively better, and therefore improves brand metrics post consumption, word of mouth and re-purchasing rates. These are long term benefits that current short term ROI analysis fails to capture, and immediate brand metrics often fail to pick up. This is important as there are numerous sectors of the economy where this could account for the vast majority of the effect that an ad campaign has (and thus needs an effective form of measurement), or the vast majority of effect that an ad campaign should aim for (rather than a misleading and inaccurate set of brand metrics – ad awareness – that pushes the planning and creative teams away from key goals).

In terms of measurement it suggests that, where possible, groups who have and haven’t seen the ad should be tested for their actual experience of the product. This can be utilised on a small level for pre-testing and on a larger level for effectiveness measurement.

It can also affect the placing of ads, as the focus shifts to increasing the enjoyment of consumption as well as increasing the initial trial or purchasing of a product. For instance FMCG ads often target ‘housewives with kids’ before they go shopping for a product, but could also target the family before they consume the product, so that their enjoyment is increased and they tell ‘mother’ to buy more. In this way branded ads could, for instance, support price promotions, and help accrue a long-term benefit out of a short term price reduction cost.

Another example, beyond FMCG, is car ads, where the campaign could not only incrementally increase the number of people who test drive a branded car, but also improve the purchase rate of everyone who tests drives the branded car, by priming them, and thus improving the subjective experience.

Finally it is interesting to note that in an environmentally conscious world, advertising could be an efficient means by which we improve an individual’s experiences without expending greater resources. If we can objectively and subjectively improve an individual’s experience of a product or service without having to incur any extra production cost for that product or service (by priming a consumer’s experience), then we have a cheap and effective means by which consumers’ utility can be increased, without the need for them to actually consume more.

Introducing Two Brains; Thinking, Fast and Slow (by Daniel Kahneman)

Statements such as G.K. Chesterton’s “One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star” and Sigmund Freud’s “We obtain our concept of the unconscious, therefore, from the theory of repression” capture the turn-of-the-century belief that what we don’t understand about ourselves is either too complicated to perceive, or so dark, sexual and disturbing that it needs repressing.

However, over time we have started to move onto the less dramatic view (nicely captured in Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’) that we operate with two distinct thinking systems; system 1 is the fast, unconscious, ’automatic’ decision maker – the “secret author” of most of our choices and decisions – and system 2 is the rational, slow-thinking, and conscious decision maker. Currently many people’s everyday perception of themselves is that of system 1, they are rational decision makers who are in control, whereas in reality we often make quick, intuitive decisions and rationalise them afterwards. In fact numerous studies have shown that we instinctively hate to put in the effort that using our rational brains requires, and consequently do so only when absolutely necessary.

The use of this our unconscious and automatic brain is interesting for advertisers. While being quick, intuitive and sensitive to environmental clues, it is often flawed and open to irrational biases and interference effects. It causes a person to change their decisions without their conscious knowledge or understanding, based upon a multitude of non-apparent factors, such as the halo, framing, or anchoring effects – all of which can be created or influenced by advertising, and most of which occur on any particular customer journey. By understanding how our automatic intuitive system works, and marrying up the right fast thinking systematic flaw with the moment in a customer journey, we can begin to understand what type of message, delivered at the right time, will affect the decisions people make. This can only help our brands, and improve our ROI.

Future posts will look at these two thinking systems in more detail, and uncover how advertising can effectively influence each one.

Digital uptake in the UK

For the 6th year in a row Ofcom has published comparative international data on the communications sector.  They state that the “aim of the report is to benchmark the UK communications sector against a range of comparator countries in order to assess how the UK is performing in an international context”. So how are we doing?

There is strong evidence that when it comes to all things digital, we are leading the way internationally.

  • People in the UK spend an average of 746 minutes a week online, longer than any of the leading economies except the USA
  • Digital TV penetration is higher than anywhere else in Europe with 97% of households receiving more than just the five basic channels
  • 27% of people watch TV online every week, compared to only 23% in the USA
  • Smartphone penetration has reached 46%, up from 24% last year and higher than any other European country (and the USA)
  • The UK spends more time on online retail sites (average of 84 mins a month) and are more likely to buy (79% have ordered goods online, more  than any of the other 12 countries questioned)
  • The Daily Mail and the Guardian websites are the most popular newspaper websites in Europe
  • In the UK, the US and France, more than one in eight Internet users use a games console to access the Internet, and tablet computers are used by between 6% and 9% of Internet users

However, the situation is not all rosy. Despite strong take up of current technologies by British consumers, new technologies are stumbling in the UK compared to other countries.

  • Next-generation mobile services, which will make mobile surfing much faster, are struggling as mobile operators’ rows mean the auction of the airways to facilitate such services is unlikely to happen until the second half of 2012, while some other European countries have already held their 4G spectrum auctions.
  • Alongside this, Superfast services (above 24Mbps per second) are lagging behind in Europe with only 4% of UK households using such services (the highest in Europe), compared to 40% in Japan and 10% in the USA.

Overall, the report suggests that the UK public is increasingly moving towards digital lives – something advertisers need to be, and are, aware of – but the UK is at risk of falling behind international competitors unless we ensure that the new Superfast technologies are promoted and invested in now.

The report can be found at:

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/cmr/cmr11/icmr/ICMR2011.pdf 

“The whites of their eyes”

I am now trained in asking people what they think; and actually listening. Many of my fellow employees and I learnt this valuable skill during two days training at the esteemed qualitative agency The Nursery, where they taught us how to run qualitative groups, and tease out the vital information that can determine key decisions for an ad campaign.

I learnt these key skills – active listening, controlling a conversation, understanding group lifecycles, enabling questions, projective techniques, evaluating emotionally rich responses – because Walker Media believes that the role of an effective media agency employee involves being equipped to fully understand the relationship between a client’s brand and their consumers.

Media agencies have a wealth of quantitative data on consumers, but too often fail to head out into the bright, non-London, non-professional (and non-white/arrogant/middle class/tech savvy/shot drinking?) world of media, and actually meet them.  We rely too often on clichés (Vicky Pollard is about right, yeah?) and rational questionnaires. But consumers are not clichés and often do not act as they rationally believe; they have rich complex emotional relationships with media and brands, that often operate on an unconscious level (as being increasingly explored in advertising literature and conferences). If we want to be experts in communicating with them, we need to understand them, in depth, and using methods that get beneath the surface.

During a qualitative group on desserts I heard a mother describe how she shared a brand of ice cream with her teenage daughter every Thursday night (while they talked about life and boys – mainly boys). I heard the tremor in her voice, I saw the smile on her face, and I picked up on what this comment really meant. I then asked follow up questions to delve into the relationship, and asked others to describe if they related to it. This was not cold hard data, but an un-replicable organic insight into her (and others) relationship with a brand. From that and many other comments we were able to draw a full picture of how our brand fitted into their lives, why they would want to hear about it, and when they would want to hear about it.

Using this sort of information we can make planning decisions that will be more insightful, accurate and ultimately effective. As such I am looking forward to asking many more questions on behalf of brands, and actually listening to the answers.