May 27, 2015   |   Scott Dahlgren

Here is a brief glimpse into the YouTube behavior of a 15-year-old boy, who happens to be my son. I’m aware this is a dangerous practice for an agency Connections Director to extrapolate from his own family dynamic, but there are some lessons here that I’ve seen born out from other sources.

My son is sandwiched somewhere in-between the tail end of the Millennial generation and the very beginning of the “We Gen” or “iGen” generation, or whatever we are going to call them.

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. What matters to marketers is how they can get him to engage with their brand in a meaningful way.

The other night, as soon as his homework was finished, (or so I was led to believe) he was up in his room watching YouTube and Vine videos, visiting websites on his iPad and playing his favorite music via iHeart Radio.

I decided to invade his space and get a better understanding on how he consumes content. I sat back watching him search for and view YouTube videos.

At the top of the YouTube page appeared a huge display ad for McDonald’s fish sandwich. When he navigated onto another page I asked if he saw the ad. He had not.

We call it “banner blindness.” In this instance, he was only paying attention to what he was seeking, effectively ignoring the McDonald’s message. Would he have noticed a Jimmy John’s ad–his favorite fast-food place?

As he viewed YouTube, I watched his mouse go quickly to the “skip ad” button – skipping 99% of the pre-roll ads. YouTube allows you to skip ads after 5 seconds.

However, there was one ad that caught his attention. It was for Sprayground backpacks, and he watched the entire 50-second ad.

I asked him why. It was not because the video featured Cleveland Cavaliers star Iman Shumpert, whom my son did not even know. What initially caught his attention was the music and then he saw it was for Sprayground’s backpacks. He had recently been looking for a new backpack and spent time checking out Sprayground’s website to view all of its backpacks and designs.

A classic and effective “retargeting” effort and one we use for a number of clients that enables us to reach out to website visitors, who did not take the desired action, and reach them again after they leave.

Millennial/iGens quickly identify what is interesting, entertaining, and/or valuable. If your brand doesn’t pass these barriers, they move on. With my son, you’ve literally got two seconds to get his attention and three seconds to be relevant. Maybe less.

Judge your next campaign through the eyes of a 15-year-old. It’s a brutal exercise but still doable if you’re on your game.

Preston Kelly
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Minneapolis, MN 55413
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