Audience Targeting
September 11, 2014

Programmatic marketing is the key to reaching millennials

Brand managers ask if it’s possible to launch branding initiatives programmatically but I think that’s the wrong question. What they need to ask is: How quickly can I get good at it?

Why the urgency? Look no farther than your newest employees; I bet they’re Millennials.

We are living through a seismic shift in demographics. Millennials – the 80 million people who were born sometime in the early 1980’s to the early 2000s — are the largest generation in the history of America. By 2030, there will be more Millennials than all other generations combined. Remember when the Boomers dominated consumer culture? They need to make way for their grandkids.

Millennials already wield tremendous economic power, and their power is growing. By 2017 they will spend $200 billion each year, outspending the boomers. Over the course of their lifetimes this will top $10 trillion.

Over the next decade, tens of millions of Millennials will select, attend and graduate from college, enter the work world, marry, buy homes, and start families. Each milestone represents a prime opportunity for brands to influence those 80 million people and earn their loyalty.

Here’s where things become very interesting for brand marketers. Over the next decade, tens of millions of Millennials will select, attend and graduate from college, enter the work world, marry, buy homes, and start families. Each milestone represents a prime opportunity for brands to influence those 80 million people and earn their loyalty. There are literally trillions of dollars at stake.

But brand marketers will need to learn a new bag of tricks to reach and engage them. Back in the days when families tuned in to watch the Bill Cosby Show or Seinfeld — on the same day and the same time and generally all in front of the same set — reaching a target demographic was pretty straightforward, and scale was simply a matter of buying more airtime. And with every network selling 30-second spots, the same creative could be reused everywhere.

Those days are gone. While Millennials watch just as much TV as previous generations, they spend more time watching it on devices other than television sets. There’s no shortage of digital outlets for them, including network’s Web sites, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and any one of the TV-on-demand services. Add content, social media and ecommerce — and their entire media focus has shifted online.

Mastering programmatic marketing is essential for brand survival. It’s the best (and most efficient) way to reach and engage millions of Millennials.

This complicates things on many levels. First, brand marketers need to embrace all digital mediums, not just TV. And they’ll need to create a broader palette of creatives, as well as learn how to match the best format for each channel. After all, if you force Millennials to watch a 30-second pre-roll on YouTube, the only thing you’ll earn is their resentment.

This is why mastering programmatic marketing is essential for brand survival. It’s the best (and most efficient) way to reach and engage millions of Millennials — with the kind of reach that TV used to provide.

But in a world swamped with “Big Data,” it’s critical that ad buyers understand which kinds of data will actually help them reach Millennials. Not all data is created and segmented equally, which can hurt your ability to reach your target audience efficiently. At the end of the day, programmatic marketing is only as good as the data that feeds it.

One of the strategic benefits of programmatic buying is that it allows you to focus your ad spend just on your target audience—so it’s highly efficient.

Over the past five years the industry has seen a lot of advances in the data used to target consumers. With 80 million Millennials essentially up for grabs, brand marketers need to focus on the right data. You can’t assume that all young adults 25-34 are interested in, say, marriage — many may already be expecting their first child, and many may be planning the trip of a lifetime. If you want to establish meaningful communications with Millennials, you’ll need to listen carefully to the data signals so you can determine the correct life stage for each individual, and message them appropriately.

One of the strategic benefits of programmatic buying is that it allows you to focus your ad spend just on your target audience — without cobbling together sponsorships on a bunch of Web sites — so it’s highly efficient. Plus, you can track results in real time so you can optimize your spend immediately.

Fortunately, purchase data provides very specific clues and insights as to whom, when and how you should message consumers. But you need to know now to interpret the signals. (Someone who purchases a box of diapers isn’t necessarily a parent; she may be an aunt or a friend doing favor for a new parent. Someone who purchases diapers on a weekly basis is certainly a parent).

Brand marketers will need to ensure the targeting data they purchase is accurate by examining key characteristics, including recency, source, and the number of data points used to classify the audience. If their data isn’t accurate, they’ll miss their target.

So brand marketers will need to ensure the targeting data they purchase is accurate by examining key characteristics, including recency, source, and the number of data points used to classify the audience. If their data isn’t accurate, they’ll miss their target.

If brand marketers get smart about programmatic marketing, they will they secure the future of their brands.