As many have long suspected, millennials really don't respond to ads like their elders do, according to a new white paper from ComScore, based on nearly 1,000 TV tests and 35 digital advertising tests by its ARS copy testing group.
Yet here's the rub: Young people have always tuned out TV ads more than others, according to ComScore, which has research on the subject dating five decades because of its 2010 acquisition of ARSgroup. The gap between younger and older largely disappears when it comes to digital ads, however.
ComScore based the conclusions on surveys showing "share of choice," or the difference between groups of people exposed to ads and those not exposed when asked which among a set of competitive products they'd like to win.
Among the key findings:
Millennials don't respond to TV ads as much as their elders. Younger people were less responsive to TV ads in studies from 1961, 1988 and 1999, and the differences are actually narrowing. The average lift in share of choice among millennials (ages 16 to 29) was 4.6 percentage points in 2011, compared with 6.4 points for boomers. But in 1988, there was an even bigger generational divide of 10.5 to 13.8 points.
Millennials are about as responsive to digital ads as other generations. The average share-of-choice lift for millennials for digital ads in the 2011 study was 6.0, vs. 6.8 for boomers and 6.4 for seniors, a much smaller difference than with TV. It's the first time ComScore or ARS looked at digital ads, as they didn't exist in 1988 and clients weren't paying for many digital ad tests in 1999. And it's not because the lifts were smaller for digital. They were actually higher across-the-board for the digital ads -- though with a small sample of 35 studies vs. nearly 1,000 for TV.
Millennials respond to the same advertising approaches as prior generations. The biggest needle-movers for them in TV ads are brand differentiation, competitive comparisons, information about new products or features and superiority claims. Showing the product and the brand or logo longer also helps. So, sorry, all you agency creatives out there. You haven't heard the last of "make the logo bigger."
Millennials are more engaged in all kinds of media than older folks. In ComScore tests that ask people about how much value they place on a program or website, millennials had engagement scores that were on average 10.3% ahead of boomers for TV programming, but an even bigger 22.2% gap over boomers on digital media. Seniors had the lowest engagement scores.
Millennials may respond less to TV ads, but at least they remember them longer. Millennials are less likely than their elders to recall an ad immediately after seeing it, losing by a 43%-to-54% margin to boomers and seniors on this front. Three days later, it's a different story, as 24% of millennials on average remember an ad vs. only 18% of seniors. One hypothesis is that the fading memories of older folks are to blame, said Douglas Crang, director at ComScore. Fading recall among older consumers is a pattern that has existed in tests since the 1960s. ARS has a long memory, even if boomers and seniors don't.