In part, this is a good and necessary thing as digital media needs to be judged comparatively against other parts of the media schedule. But it also ignores the fundamental shift that presents itself in the way certain groups of consumers communicate—particularly Generation Z.
Generation Z media trends
A recent study by SCG reports that 89 percent of university and senior school students say Snapchat is their main medium for communicating with friends. Similarly, GlobalWebIndex has found that nearly 80 percent of Generation Z-ers are using WhatsApp once a day or more. Both these platforms lie partially in the "dark web"—a space near-impossible for marketers to mine for brand analytics.
Beyond those two big players is a world of forums, blogs, sub-Reddits and Tumblrs that are similarly hard for brands to navigate. In these spaces, brands can only make authentic, measurable contributions, or risk being ignored or lambasted.
That’s not to say video shouldn’t be part of a brand’s strategic thinking when it comes to targeting the youth market—these customers are over-indexing on online TV and online press. What’s tricky for brands is that young people are consuming this video, creating their own content and communicating with friends inside platforms much harder to measure than other forms of media.
New content for a new generation
We need a new approach to creating content for this commercially important audience. This approach should be guided by two key principles. First, assets should be lightweight. They should be created at volume, changed frequently, and made available for use as a mode of self-expression by the brand’s audience. Second, they should be "aware." The assets should translate easily between private and public spaces, and be authentic and understanding at worst, and useful, contributory and measurable at best.
A great example of a brand following the lightweight and aware model is PlayStation and its use of Giphy as a central part of its recent campaign. Research from the brand revealed that teen gamers were distrustful of broadcast media, prizing YouTube influencers and dark social conversations with their peers more than traditional outlets.
To allow those conversations to happen, PlayStation launched a Giphy page to give teens visual content with which to share their most meaningful gaming moments. Those Gifs have been used around 290m times with little or no media spend.
Yes, it’s difficult to develop creative like this within the industry’s current framework. It requires a humbler, more elastic, more collaborative and less craft-obsessed touch. We also need to fuse this alternative approach with a new attitude to measurement that feeds back quickly into new content development and demonstrates ROI to budget holders.
The imperative for change
Implementing cross-device, multi-touch attribution across many content pieces in many different environments is hard. But ultimately it’s the only way that CMOs will truly understand audience behaviours within both investment planning and optimisation—ultimately in real-time.
At Accenture, we believe in giving this new audience real experiences and useful and entertaining content; whatever the format and however simple those experiences may feel to seasoned marketers. Ultimately, it’s about giving audiences what they want; and come to think of it, that might not be a bad approach to marketing as a whole.