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For marketing executives, choices about where and how much to spend to appeal to consumers should depend mainly on a careful analysis of those consumers and where they want to find marketing. But when a generation gap appears between these two groups, advertising choices may reflect marketers’ preferences more than consumers’.

A clear manifestation comes from advertising for beauty products. Previous generations of consumers often relied on insights and advice from big, glossy fashion magazines. Thus, lush, expensive, two-page spreads, with glamorous shots of beauty products in use, seemed effective and appropriate. But millennials who still read such magazines likely access them online and skip quickly over such long and intrusive ads, with little appreciation for the quality of the shot.

Germany, Berlin, Teenage boy using mobile phoneAccording to Forrester Research, 91 percent of millennials are active Internet users. To reach the Web, 59 percent of them use smartphones, 35 percent rely on tablets, and 70 percent employ their laptops. Across these various uses, this younger generation of consumers spends an average of 25 hours online every week.

Their electronic media usage is not the only impressive number describing these consumers: The millennial market encompasses approximately 105 million consumers, with annual buying power of about $200 billion. Yet even when they recognize and appreciate the size and opportunity that these consumers represent, many marketers—especially those who have reached executive positions after long careers—continue to devote the bulk of their media spending to channels that millennials simply don’t use that much anymore, such as magazines and television.

The main reason for this error might be a somewhat clichéd image, of Baby Boomers confused and overwhelmed by the new options created through technological advances. Faced with a wealth of choices, such as small independent blogs, content-generating sites, and aggregators, these marketing executives retreat to familiar ground. If they aren’t sure what each type of site does, they can’t determine which is the best option.

Even marketers who embrace technology channels for advertising exhibit a tendency to prefer well-established, widely known spaces, such as Facebook or Google. For young consumers who seek exciting, interactive media content, such options have little chances of success.

Source: Bonnie Fuller, “Baby-Boomer Marketers Are Misreading Millennials’ Media Behavior,” The Advertising Age, May 13, 2013