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Millennials are flexing their muscles and status quo audience targeting isn’t going to reach them. Proximity will.

GeoMinds: Not Your Grandfather’s Media Plan

| 6:15 pm

John Haake

With more than 80 million in their ranks, Millennials have quietly become the largest generation in American history, eclipsing the elder Generation-X and Baby Boomers each by 1 million people. Their direct buying power has been estimated to be more than $200 billion, and their indirect influence at least double that, and now their oldest members are entering their peak earning and spending years. Indeed, JD Power trend data reports Millennials will match Boomers dollar for dollar in 2015 auto buying.

As native digital users, Millennials are savvy shoppers armed with a never-ending stream of information at their fingertips. They rely less on traditional information sources. Millennials consume the vast majority of their media on mobile devices, making them largely unreachable by broadcast media buys. According to Elite Daily, less than 3 percent of Millennials rank TV news, magazines and books as influencing their purchases and only 1 in 100 say a compelling advertisement could make them trust a brand more.

The Rush to Mobile

One of the many dynamics that makes mobile special is the fact that we carry our devices around with us all day. In March, the Mobile Media Association released research that demonstrates what a huge opportunity this is for advertisers, especially when location data is leveraged.

In a representative campaign, a large national retailer leveraged location data to inform its audience building as well as proximity targeting (geo-fence). The MMA found that location-informed audience targeting accounted for a 50 percent lift in return on every dollar spent across the entire media mix, while proximity targeting proved to be a whopping 150 percent more impactful. Moreover, mobile impacted more consumers per dollar spent than both Broadcast and Cable TV. Mobile drove a 14 percent change in overall shopping intent despite only accounting for 7 percent of the entire media spend. Put simply, location-inform mobile works like crazy and even makes other channels in the mix perform better.

Other Places to Catch Millennials

When it comes to billboards, what was once old is now new, and proximity is every bit as important as it is in mobile. The quintessential argument for out of home (OOH) has always been that it’s great for general reach and hyper local, which is to say even expert advertising evaders like Millennials cannot ignore a billboard.

The knock against OOH [has been] the perceived lack of measurability and targeting, but this is quickly changing. High resolution digital displays and proximity signals generated from smartphones bring OOH into the digital age. In the words of iHeartMedia CEO, Bob Pittman, billboards have become “iPads on a stick.”

Like iPads, interactive billboards have integrated beacon technology and mobile location to bridge the offline world with the digital one. Location signals from mobile apps with opt-in location tracking layered with other relevant data like a marketer’s CRM, publisher, ad network or third party data, provides a high resolution picture of OOH audiences.

With this data, advertisers can engage audiences in the real world like never before. Millennial standard-bearer Justin Timberlake along with Target and Clear Channel Outdoor teamed to pull off an unprecedented digital OOH roadblock as part of the release of Justin’s “20/20 Experience.” Hundreds of digital signs in every major market simultaneously featured a countdown clock to the album release party. The multimedia campaign was a wild success. The album was one of Target’s top three best-selling albums in the last decade, had the biggest first week sales for a male artist in five years, and debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.

All this and nary a broadcast television buy included in the media plan. So, if you are interested in reaching the largest buying generation in history, you’ll want to look for ways to siphon off budget from traditional media channels to pay for ones that can leverage proximity.

*John Haake is a storyteller who cut his teeth in creative roles working on brands like Stetson, Democracy Jeans, Blublockers, Farmland Foods, and Haier Appliances. More recently he has concentrated on positioning platforms that blend data and technology to make better advertising. He was the CMO of Verve Mobile where he was brought on to reposition the mobile ad network to a self-serve platform for location-informed mobile. Prior to that he was VP of marketing at [x+1] (acquired by Rocket Fuel), where he repositioned the company as a DMP and helped guide it to a successful exit. John was also VP of marketing at HookLogic, a retail search platform, and Turn, where he helped introduce programmatic media buying to the industry. John also held various executive positions at Synaptic Digital (acquired by Definition 6), MediaMind (currently Sizmek), and RichFX. He is also a recognized thought leader who is regularly published and presents often at conferences and panels.

He explains what he does to friends and family this way: “You know the moment when you see an ad for exactly what you need two seconds before you realize you need it? I market the data-driven, people-based technologies behind that magic.”

**Editor’s Note: Our “GeoMinds” opinion series features posts written by outside contributors from all parts of the GeoMarketing community who want to share their views of the trends, issues, problems, and solutions changing the online-to-offline advertising and marketing landscape. To become a contributor, contact us at