Entertainment Unicasting: The Meeting Ground for Gen X and Gen Y Advertising


Generation X encompasses the 44 to 50 million Americans born between 1965 and 1980. Members of Generation X are largely in their 30s and early 40s. On the whole, they are more ethnically diverse and better educated than the Baby Boomers. Over 60% of Generation X attended college.  This generation marks the period of birth decline after the baby boom and is significantly smaller than previous and succeeding generations.  This also means that effectively marketing and advertising to this smaller group is important because the target market is so much more concise than the baby boomers and other generations.

Couple that with the fact that as advertisers begin 2013, budgets are tighter than ever.  As a result, most do not have the luxury of pouring ad dollars across every media platform, both online and traditional broadcasting.  We can all agree that traditional TV and Radio has changed dramatically amongst both generations.  Therefore, these mediums can pretty much be ruled out as the main sources to pour millions of ad dollars into.

The main obstacle advertisers face with the “general” web is the shared broadcasting experiences between viewers/listeners.  In these scenarios, advertisers are forced to produce broad ads that appeal to the masses vs. individuals, thus resulting in consumers not identifying with the ads and brands.

One-to-One Entertainment Broadcasting is the Sweet Spot for Both Generations

Unicasting, also known as one-to-one online entertainment broadcasting, continues to serve as one of the most powerful ways advertisers can hit several different audiences with a single medium.  Hulu is a great example of an online entertainment giant that has built a multi-million dollar ad-supported business model by offering one-to-one, customized entertainment programming that speaks to both generations extremely well.  Millennials (Generation Y) hooked on New Girl and Glee see much different ads during their Hulu programming breaks than the “MTV Generation” watching Law & Order and Grey’s Anatomy.  They clearly are doing something right as revenue for 2011 was over $420 million!

Online audio publishers that offer one-to-one, customized real-time streaming and on-demand online audio entertainment are also finding they appeal to advertisers that want to hit both generations.  Online audio publishers such as Absolute Radio, Virgin Radio, Yahoo Sports, and Leighton Broadcasting are all reaping the benefits of customized, generational advertising through one common technology: “Targeted Ad Insertion.”

By partnering with online digital audio advertising solutions provider, AdsWizz, these broadcasters as well as several thousands more, are seeing a significant increase in ad dollars from both generations who access their programs.  The technology platform allows online audio publishers to conduct one-to-one marketing by allowing them to insert ads directly into each individual end-user stream.  It ensures the ad specifically speaks to the individual end-user interests, geographical location and even their age!

Absolute Radio is a great example of an online publisher reaching both generations with their InStream Ad Service, which uses AdsWizz technology for one-to-one marketing. It was important for their advertisers to manage all of their campaigns easily and efficiently in one place.  In addition, the ability to integrate ad serving across multiple platforms in multiple formats, with web analytics, and advanced targeting filters is a must. It also allows inventory and contracts to be managed, including all the campaigns, within one user interface.

From a targeting standpoint, the InStream Ad Service actually improves ad targeting to a logged-in listenership through “full view” gender, age, demographic and active location based data. The service enhances the radio experience by merging opt-in privacy data with live online streaming and puts Absolute Radio at the forefront of digital innovation. Based on initial success, Volkswagen and Microsoft’s cloud-based software Office 365 were the first advertisers to sign up and use Absolute Radio’s targeted advertising.

“Many advertisers we deal with today are concerned that if they spend their online dollars with us, they must be guaranteed their ads will effectively, both in terms of messaging and budgets, reach both Gen Xers and Yers,” said Kris Lahr, Marketing Partner and Account Executive at Leighton Broadcasting. “Targeted Ad Insertion allows our advertisers to kill two birds with one stone – they can market one product to both age groups on one or two devices (ie: mobile or/and PCs) platforms with slightly different customized messaging that appeals to both age groups.”

While Authenticity Resonates with Gen Xers, Optimism Speaks to the Hearts of Millennials

Prior to marketing to each generation, it’s important to understand the different entertainment interests and communication messages that resonate best with each age group.  Scarborough Research has studied the views of heavy listeners to give stations insights into topics that interest them and their buying habits.  Scarborough’s SVP of Digital Media Services, Gary Meo, touched upon this topic at the recent Arbitron Client Conference in Annapolis, Md.

“The better you know your audience, the better you can provide engaging content,” said Meo.  For example, 61% of Millennials are reached by popular CHR formats while Spanish Adult Hits do well with Gen Xers. Studying online shopping behaviors shows Millennials are the heaviest Internet users, but Gen Xers buy more on the web. Sixty-two percent of Millennials agree that the Internet is a main source of entertainment, compared to 50% of Gen Xers.  Social networking is big with Millennials and stations trying to reach them need to use it, advised Meo. Eighty-four percent of Millennials use social networking, compared to 75% of Gen Xers and 56% of Boomers. Both generations each share common characteristics that shape their buying habits and reactions to advertisements.  Common traits include trust in authority, belief in institutions and a love of “brands.” Characterized as team players who want to work with others who share their vision of the world, they are the most “connected” age group, yet they use the Internet more for entertainment versus buying purposes. Both generations revealed that they are optimistic about the future and their ability to change the world.  Additionally, Millennials communicate with their parents almost every day – sixty percent return home after college to live with their parents and relate well to their baby boomer relatives.

Marketing Tactics/Messaging That Works

From a message-positioning standpoint, these generations prefer high-energy, extreme scenarios in advertising.   Additionally entertainment ads appeal more to them than product-pushing ads.  For Millennials, ads that propose doing things “together” and emphasize the “we” and how they can “change” the world are attractive.  Like with many generations, new technology gadgets and social media applications are most appealing.  Nearly 81% use Facebook about once each day and considered a key tool for advertisers.

Generation X Shared Characteristics

Generation Xers are more diverse in race, class, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation than Baby Boomers and statistically are a group with the highest education levels.  However, interestingly enough, they make less money individually in real dollars than their parents had, but have higher household incomes due to more women in the workforce.  So it would make sense that they have a strong sense of independence.  The emphasis has and continues to be on keeping the family together and doing things as a family.  This group also has a high-risk aversion in terms of spending due to being personally effected by constant economic crises such as Dot.Com Bubble Bust and current Great Recession.  So it would make sense that this generation would prefer a calm, safe approach in advertising unlike the newer generations.  They have a strong desire for authenticity.  Imagery featuring realistic events that may occur or have occurred in the lives of Gen Xers resonates.  As practical buyers, they are big believers in products and services reviews by peers through social media or third-party endorsers such as bloggers.

“From an advertising standpoint, Generation X is uniquely positioned. They know what they want and what they like and most importantly who they are,” says Joe Stagaman, EVP, Advertising Effectiveness Analytics for Nielsen. “Recognizing this creates an opportunity for marketers to appeal to this population with a genuine and realistic campaign that Gen Xers can identify with.”

From consumer electronics to entertainment, today’s advertiser will continue to face a difficult challenge in finding a perfect balance of marketing “one brand” to two similar, yet very different audiences: Generation X and Millennials.  Sure, the gap between the two generations is not as vast say between Boomers and Gen Xers.  However, the differences are strong enough between the two age groups that if you ask most advertisers, especially those promoting consumer products, they constantly struggle to create one cohesive brand that speaks to both audiences.  The good news at the end of the day is that now the fast advancements of ad serving geo-targeting technology will be instrumental in targeting these vast audiences.


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