What young people add to ads

As published on How Cool Brands Stay Hot on June 19, 2014. On June 5, Viacom gathered the best of Belgium’s advertising and advertisers for its Identify Kids and Identify Youth event at Technopolis in Mechelen. It was an inspiring day full of interesting insights on modern-day kids and Millennials. InSites Consulting had the privilege to contribute to the event by handing out 2 awards that day, based on fresh research: the Best Kids @ and the Best Youth @ Award.
The awards were given to the highest scoring ad from a list of 60 TV commercials which aired on Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and other SBS channels for the Kids (8 to 12 years of age) and on MTV, TMF and other SBS channels for the Youth segment (15 to 24 years of age).

How to ask youngsters about your ad?

If you wonder what to ask youngsters about your ad in order to be able to make a go or no-go decision, then here are 3 basic questions you can run by them very efficiently without compromising on effectiveness. Let them watch your ad – without being able to fast-forward nor rewind of course – and then ask 3 questions:

  1. Likeability: To which extent do you like the ad you just saw?
  2. Persuasion: To which extent are you convinced by the ad you just saw?
  3. Shareability: How likely is it that you will talk about or share this commercial (online)?

Those 3 KPIs and in particular their average result should give you good input for a fast go/no-go decision. And that is exactly what we did with 253 kids (aged 8 to 12) and 283 young adults (aged 15 to 24), respectively watching the 30 kid spots and 30 young adult spots.
Furthermore we asked one more open-ended question to all participants: Would you like to add anything to the ad? And that is when it became interesting of course. Through that one simple question, we received a lot of input of the ‘why’ behind the numbers. What follows are the main observations. So if you are in the process of creating an ad which targets these young age groups, here’s a few punters.

7 things Kids would add to ads…

  1. The product is King
    Kids prefer ads for products they already use and like. In other words: make them use the product, sample, give them free access or coupons to try it (again).
  2. Social currency
    Kids prefer ads which tell them something they did not know before and which they find important. Something they can talk about in school so as to be perceived as ‘knowledgeable’ or trendy. Add ‘inside information’ to your ad, especially about topics they are into: media, entertainment, gaming, etc.
  3. Identification and recognition are key
    Kids prefer ads which they recognize their own situation or household context in.
  4. Animation and anthropomorphism
    Kids of a young age tend to humanize products (anthropomorphism = humanizing unhuman objects). They see human faces everywhere, even in cornflakes or PlayStation consoles. There are Lightning Mcqueen eyes and smiles everywhere. So using animation to make functional, lifeless objects look like they are coming to life is a way to become a sticky commercial for these kids.
  5. Comedy rules
    Make them laugh and you found the way to their heart.
  6. Link it to an app/technology
    A lot of the remarks and feedback we received from the kids was about the call to action at the end of an ad, asking them to download the app or play the game online. They love this ‘second/third screen’ call to action and see it as a ‘natural’ way to connect with them.
  7. When in doubt…. get a pet
    Oh, yes. Pets. Why? The cuteness, mommy.

7 things Youngsters would add to ads…

  1. Spread happiness and believable positivity
    In today’s world of crisis and international turmoil, youngsters find comfort in brands that spread an authentic message of togetherness and peace (of mind). Think back to Coca-Cola’s Happiness campaigns focusing on similarities between races and ethnicities rather than differences.
  2. Actually say something
    Millennials are critical. We have known that for a long time now. They expect brands which stand for something: a clear message they can like or dislike, not some wishy-washy half-baked message which is all over the place.
  3. Focus on the soundtrack
    If there’s one thing Millennials kept mentioning in the remark section of nearly each ad we showed them, it is the soundtrack. Great soundtracks are the shortcut to a Millennial’s heart. Music has the advantage of effortlessly conveying a message and values because young adults understand the semiotics behind a sexy disco tune or an upbeat recent pop hit. A lot of the ads targeting Millenials do not pay attention to this crucial part of the 30-second story.
  4. The idea is King
    As opposed to the kids who are really product-centric, young adults are really into creativity when it comes to ads. They look up to a romanticized world of advertisers and advertising agencies. It is the ‘Mad Men’ effect: the guys and girls who wrote this ad must have had a blast in making it. So if they come across a ‘big idea’ – one they like and have the impression of that they could not have come up with it themselves – they will link it to the creativity of the brand.
  5. Provoke or break taboos
    Yes, it’s been said since the liberating sixties: youngsters like to cross boundaries once in a while, discovering their personality and crafting their future. Ads that make them think or show them stuff they find provoking or taboo-breaking are definitely remarkable and offer a great (viral) conversation starter when meeting friends.
  6. Show your price
    It might sound surprising, but part of transparency and openness in ads for young adults is about communicating your cost. H&M sets the standard here by always showing the actual price of that sexy new bikini Gisele is wearing. A standard that a lot of brands do too little with. Do not only show them great visuals of your new car model curving its way through a deserted landscape on that new ‘Frank Ocean’ tune, but do also show them what the car costs at the end of the commercial. After all, these are 20-somethings with limited budgets surviving in an economically uncertain era, slowly reaching financial independence. Money matters.
  7. When in doubt…Sex sells.
    Oh yes. Sex. Why? The hormones, baby.

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