Hey, Cool-Hunters. I've Got Your Millennials Right Here.
This ad:tech panel consisted of six Millennials, which -- according to the official (coughs) definition -- represent those born between 1979 and 1994. Wanna know if they actually respond to your email blasts and big Flash banners? Watch the video above. And if you happen to be shilling for Urban Outfitters, pat yourself on the back.
Alloy's Samantha Skey served as moderator and cow prod. This company's entire raison d'etre is to know kids better than they know themselves, then package them in silver spoonfuls to ravenous marketers. Once in awhile, Skey made an irrefutable statement about their transparent whims, backed by video footage of some poor dope proving her right.
Here's the run-through of Gen-Y's fleeting loves.
What gadget do you carry with you all the time? Overwhelmingly, the cell phone, mostly to stay connected to friends and family; and to a lesser degree, for music. They're also really, really fond of texting, and have plenty of charming anecdotes about their moms -- funny little hens -- exploring SMS in awkward little leaps and bounds.
The panel agrees that fewer and more relevant ads, and maybe a perk like free text messaging, would make SMS a happier medium.
Is there anything cell phones shouldn't do? An apt question. "I think the more, the better," says one guy. "It just makes everything more convenient for me."
One girl agrees. "It's like a safety for me," she says, but another isn't so sure. Mobile internet access strikes her as overkill because she doesn't want to be perpetually accessible via email and to advertisers.
Later this same girl confesses technology in general makes life more stressful, because we've become incapable of organizing our lives on our own. In an odd moment of self-effacement, however, she also confesses she's never lived without this degree of technology, so what does she know?
What ads would you stop your DVR for? Half specify funny or quirky ads. Target won two votes; Subway's $5 foot-long ads got a suitor; Bravia, one; Sonic, one (by a guy who doesn't even live near one); NBA/Nike ads, one vote by a guy who, for the duration of this session, would consistently reiterate his bias for the pagan Goddess of Victory.
Skey brings the projector to life. It reads:
62% learn about popular brands/products via advertising. "I'm a poor college student so bring on the ads!" - Michelle, college sophomore.
Where do you see ads most? Half say online; two said around the city; one referred to her friends' shirts. "I think everyone's a walking ad, basically," she said.
Another guy says Facebook ads catch his attention. He feels they're "specifically for me" and are unobtrusive and relevant.
"I love deals," another says. She's wearing a pretty plum blouse and sparkly long earrings. I can imagine them in last season's ideeli or RevolveClothing.com email blasts. Who doesn't love deals?
What brands do you love? Everybody picks a different one: Apple, Urban Outfitters, NBA/Nike (guess who!), Asics, Diet Coke, Bobby Brown, Trader Joe's.
Perking up at the sound of Trader Joe's, Skey seizes this opportunity to turn the tide toward greenwashing.
Panelists appear ruffled when she insinuates our generation will chase down most anything that purports to serve a good cause -- even if we don't quite understand how the brand interaction trickles down to hungry kids, or parts of the rain forest under siege by malevolent loggers.
"This generation cares about the appearance of social responsibility," she spouts, then puts on a video clip of some kid claiming to like an app on Facebook that enables you to send virtual plants to friends, each of which "[saves] a square foot of the rain forest or something."
However, she hastens to add, there's a growing backlash against companies whose authenticity is suspect.
Skey opens the panel to responses on top green firms, assuring them to say whatever comes to mind, even if they haven't fully researched the company's merit.
Ben & Jerry's. Starbucks. Nike's pop-up stores, which anatomize shoes to show people how each part of the shoe-preparation process is eco-friendly. Verizon donates cell phones to battered women. Nike sponsors teams that need sneakers or tournament funding. Disney -- "always coming up with new ways to help the environment and reduce their carbon footprint." American Apparel -- no sweatshops, "doing things" for immigrant labor.
Any gripes about ads you've seen? Several cite the ongoing Mac vs. PC campaign. One girl found it cute and funny in the beginning, but Microsoft's recent retaliation effort "makes me kinda nervous."
One guy calls Microsoft's ads more democratic than Apple's; another claims they're "pointless" because they don't teach people anything about the product. Apple ads double as usability tools.
Three panelists own a PC; two use Macs, one has a ThinkPad.
Now for audience questions. Any privacy worries? Kids seem to agree that companies should help educate users about their privacy policies. No one's ever read a privacy agreement in full; and while the idea of companies using their publicly-available info to advertise creeps them out, no one likes the idea of government regulation in this arena.
A woman in non-profit is shocked no one mentioned a non-profit in their list of favourite green companies. Skey confesses it was partly her fault for positioning the question a certain way, and the kids set the record straight: Habitat for Humanity, One Foundation, Greenpeace.
Do you buy from brands whose ads you like? Yes and no. Nike gets the most huzzahs out of this one, and one guy appears to like Diet Coke ads because he was already a heavy Diet Coke drinker. The girl in the pretty plum blouse says if she likes a brand, she'll actually go looking for the ads.
Finally, one skeptic asks whether the kids think they're really representative of their generation. My favourite response came from a panelist named Carlos:
I'd like to say that we're all equal, but ... maybe I'm above-average.