The most unfortunate truism of our time is that my generation lives most of its life on the Internet. We get our news, our entertainment and our party invitations all in the same place. Never in history have we been able to so carefully curate how folks in our network perceive us. So naturally, this is the most ideal place for advertisers to find us, right?
One of advertising’s golden rules tells us to cut through rather than contribute to existing media clutter. However, this is easier said than done — today’s innovations are tomorrow’s clichés Take the Internet, for example — despite all the academic hours we invested in webvertising when the idea was shiny and new, it’s nothing novel to digital natives.
These digital natives are near-unanimously equipped with what Luke Sullivan calls “The Wall.” In his 2012 manifesto “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This,” he defines The Wall as the “perceptual filter that consumers put up to protect themselves from this tsunami of product information.” And rightfully so — this demographic sifts through more spam E-mail and pop-up ads than any other generation at any point in time. This is why E-mail filters and AdBlock exist — and the fact that so many natives utilize these widgets should be proof enough that webvertising no longer classifies as “cutting through the clutter,” but rather as “building up The Wall.”
So, how do we target a generation that lives on the Internet without using the Internet?
It’s simple: catch them where they least expect it.
Sarpino’s Pizzeria frequently sends me postcards in the mail saying, “We miss you, Mattie!” It plays into the whole millennial “pizza is my boyfriend” kitsch, and it’s hilarious to me. I’ve taken photos of this card and shared it with friends, joking about how I “ordered Sarpino’s one time and now they’re obsessed with me.” Meanwhile, various ads for other pizza parlors pop up in my Facebook feed every single day — and I don’t remember anything about them.
Whether intentional or not, Sarpino’s has made itself top-of-mind by catching us off-guard in a medium usually reserved for bills and cell phone companies. Before E-mail, direct mail was a source of clutter. But direct mail built up our parents’ Walls, not ours. Just as it feels novel to read a book rather than an online article or listen to a record rather than Spotify, receiving a postcard is so much more interesting to digital natives than a pile of online spam — even if it’s from a restaurant.
This doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t utilize the Internet at all — it’s simply a matter of what point in the interaction the web usage takes place. Sarpino’s pizza can be ordered online, and a postcard may remind them to do so. While millennials will almost definitely ignore your initial Internet outreach, they’ll contact you if given an incentive.
Just because your target market spends ample time on Facebook doesn’t make it a viable advertising platform. The knife that’s used the least is often the sharpest — and the most ideal for cutting through the clutter.
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