Teens + the Future of Broadcast Advertising

02 Jul 2004|Added Value

Cheskin was recently asked to provide some insight towards an article in the New York Times News of the Week in Review section. The topic we needed to address was the future of the television commercial—specifically, how do teens view and embrace television commercials? What are the predominant influences shaping teens’ interactions with TV? Is the television commercial likely to evolve, and if so, how will teens engage it? What role will it have within their television experience? Their lives? We culled our thoughts, and came up with the following hypotheses:

Given past behavior, TV advertising will likely survive, but in a new, probably diminished role for teens.

As context, teens are passing from a dependence on parents/family to their eventual independence. During that passage, they look to outside sources for direction. Their peers are the most influential, followed (in the past) by brands, music, and for some, authorities like teachers. They tend to relate to those influences that give them a sense of identity and security. For a few, the identity they seek is unique and distinct; but most seek an identity that shows they “belong” and are like other teens. TV ads have traditionally influenced them to see a brand as acceptable/desirable.

Two things have changed with this generation of teenagers: first, they are a generation of “authors.” They are very comfortable creating new content, whether that be authoring text messages, morphing digital photos, remixing audio or editing video. This has made them less likely to behave en masse, and more at ease creating their personal identity from mixing and matching selected influences. Secondly, they have more influences than ever before, including the global, unedited, reach of the net. So, they have more sources of novel influence and more willingness/ability to recombine it to their own ends.

What we (Cheskin) think this means to traditional TV advertising is that it will be one of many inputs for teens, and it may have a different influence than advertisers plan. For example, teens may simply like an ad’s music and download it, ignoring everything else. Or, they may like the location where it’s shot, and find out more about it on the web. Or they may like the way it’s edited and copy the style for one of their own videos. In each case, they may pay little or no attention to the ad’s message–they instinctively know how to focus on what they value and how to ignore the other parts of media. Their parents never learned that.

For those ads they like or value, teens are likely to expect some type of link to more info (as web ads have). They will expect it to be relatively easy to compare their reactions to their friends or others they trust. Likewise, they’ll expect to get first-hand advice from others who have already tried the product. For example, we’ve heard of teens text messaging a “yea or nay” vote on a new movie while they are watching it. This turns other teens away from poor movies within hours of their opening (or brings them in faster to good ones).

Other influences that will vie for TV advertising’s vacated spot? The strongest probably haven’t been commercialized yet, but will probably incorporate the emerging capabilities of wireless connectivity, peer review ratings and agent filters (I’d guess it’s about 4-5 years out). For now, the more comprehensive campaigns that include grass roots activities along with good ads in multiple media seem to still be working. Selecting the right spokesperson is still effective (although with fragmentation, finding the right spokesperson is getting much harder). Product placement in movies and hot TV shows is still working. In-store merchandising is becoming increasingly important. And of course, free samples still have appeal.

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