Being a 23-year Old Designer in Advertising Land
Warning, this is a bit wordy and all over the place. Since I’m a millennial I typically only communicate in 140 characters, so long-form writing isn’t my strongest skill.
I work in advertising. I didn’t watch Mad Men before I got here. I pretty much tweeted myself into this cushy ergonomic chair (true story). I’m now attempting to sell expensive things to an aspirational target. Millennials. The individuals that have a clear sense of who they are. As my friend has said, someone who has a ‘well developed personality’. Me. They want me, to buy their stuff.
I think a lot of discussion about millennials has missed something. There is a clear gap in how people between their late 20's and those in their early 20's view online socialization.
I would argue that people only slightly older than myself use the internet to reflect their ideal self. The self they have spent their lives developing, independent of the internet. The way they interact with each other is different since they didn’t grow up with online or faux social encounters.
I’ve developed my entire character on the internet. How I interact with my peers is different since a large part of my socialization growing up was done online.
I joined MySpace when I was 12. Just think about that for a minute. I want you to remember how stressful middle school or junior high was. This is a point in your life where you start making very clear decisions about who you are as a person. You decide to be friends with the rich kid, David, or the fantastically nerdy Brittany. You decide if you want to be an UGG girl or a Doc Marten girl. Do I listen to Dave Matthews Band or old records of The Doors. I also had to decide who I was going to put in my Top 8 list. Who did I associate with not just in real life, but on the internet. Do I post a photo of myself at a family dinner or me kicking it with the crew at the beach? How do I want people to think I look? Which god-awful chain threads to repost on the message board that would best represent who I am. It’s an awful lot to decide on.
Facebook became invite-only to high-schoolers when I was 14. I was an early adopter but by the time I was 16 the whole school was on it. My whole high school social life was split between the internet and the real life stuff. I remember the first time I changed my status from “In A Relationship” to “Single” and then had to walk the halls the next day. Or waiting for someone to hit accept on that friend request, and if they didn’t, how awkward it was to sit next to them in English. Don’t even get me started on “pokes”. And when the iPhone came out senior year any separation from school and the internet dissolved.
Online actions increasingly took on more weight than IRL social interactions.
My young adult existential crisis was a digital one. My digital persona is my real life persona. There is no difference to me. Each piece of content I produced to be on the internet, is how I see myself. Not the other way around. I didn’t “grow up” on the internet. I actually built myself on the internet.
Should we be advertising (at least in the digital space) differently to those whose existence has been defined by a modem connection?
So let’s talk about targeting. When I hear “We need to reach 18-35 year olds,” I become a bit confused. That’s a large age range. We’re aware that the rate in which new technology exists is increasing exponentially. What does that mean for generational gaps?
When my grandparents were born, the television had yet to be invented. However, my parents spent a large part of their childhood sitting in front of one, but they did not grow up with cell phones or the internet. With each piece of new technology, culture and social systems change. There becomes a generational gap between the individuals who developed with a certain technology and those who didn’t.
The rate of new technology is increasing, so culture adjusts and is manipulated more frequently due to these inventions. The generational gap becomes smaller. That gap is no longer just between parents and their children, it’s now between those just 10 years younger.
Thirty-five year olds didn’t grow up texting each other during class. They didn’t grow up with a Like button that would completely adjust how your day was going. And yet, we try to market to them in the same way that we market to 18-year-olds who might have had an iPhone with full internet access in middle school.
The idea of targeting digital campaigns to millennials, as a whole group, just seems ridiculous to me.
Let’s use our fancy analytics to define a much more niche audience. The campaign, the content, will be much more believable (and this is a skeptical audience since the first childhood encounter with Slap the Monkey banners) than a generic “young people will like this” campaign.
Alright, that’s my rant.