The unreachables

It’s a rare meeting, pitch, or roadmap that doesn’t involve “reaching millennials”.

The term, coined in 1987, was meant to refer to people coming of age in the new millennium – originally those of us born circa 1982. Most sources still define millennials as born within a twenty-year period beginning in the early 80’s.

This may be a generation, but it’s completely useless as a media/marketing target.

The pace of change in media, content, entertainment, and the way marketing messages are delivered is far too fast to measure in generations. It’s not just that today’s sixteen-year-old and today’s thirty-six-year old grew up in completely different worlds. The way we experience, consume, and understand our world changes dramatically year over year.

So, in reality, “millennials” is totally meaningless. 

“Reaching millennials” is almost always code for one of two things: capturing youth culture (whole different deal) or reaching the unreachables. It’s the unreachables that have really changed the way we need to approach business.

Unreachables. We don’t watch TV. We don’t have cable or any push-only subscriptions. We don’t make appointments for media. We don’t have landlines. We’re often totally unwired. We don’t see print. We use adblockers. We “miss” other ads because we’ve already moved on from the target.

We know when we are being “branded at” and can, often do, choose to ignore it.

We make decisions by reaching out to a trusted group of sources that we personally curate, and we can reach these sources from anywhere at any time. 

We’re really hard to map as an attribution model or “customer journey” because there are so many places you can’t see us.

Unreachables don’t consume media in the way we are expected to; don’t sit through ads; absorb messaging in a different way, if at all; aren’t where you expect your audience to be after decades of traditional TV, print, radio, and traditional digital marketing.

Unreachables are the huge and growing audience whose lives don’t align with the plan you made last year, let alone the canonical wisdom you’ve built up over a decade or more.

This has nothing to do with millennials. You want the unreachables.

Tomorrow, November 9, at 2:30 PM CET, I’ll be leading a roundtable at Web Summit’s Marketing X on “How Do You Reach the Unreachable Audience?”. Come say hi if you’ll be in Lisbon. If you’re not, I’ll be sharing some of the group’s insight and comments post-conference. 

Proof “Know Me”

We took a very different direction on this introductory video for the Proof suite of software products. Proof is based on matching cookies and device IDs to a) a media campaign of any kind and b) Lucid’s huge pool of survey respondents. It reveals a picture of the audience that marketers have historically not been able to see.
I thought it would be interesting to work off the idea that we don’t know much about other people, and that as you get to know someone they gradually reveal small things about themselves that add up to a greater whole.

The North Face goes experiential…and the bottom drops out

Awesome instore activation from The North Face Korea. What will a customer do when the floor literally disappears? Luckily there’s a climbing wall…it’s North Face, after all.


Be an artist, not a marketer

When you create art, it rings with truth and authenticity. When you create “marketing”, it often rings hollow.

If we lose sight of art in the rush of business, we suffer for it as marketers, even if our business seems an “ordinary” one.

Scale doesn’t mean anything if your ad doesn’t work

“Equity analyst Dan Salmon may have never gotten as much feedback on a research note as the one he wrote six weeks ago about native ads — the trendy, bespoke executions mimicking the form of the content around them. “It was agency people saying ‘This doesn’t work, it doesn’t scale,'” Mr. Salmon recalled at a panel on native advertising convened by Ad Age and IPG at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. They require too much work to be efficient, the agencies complained.” – Ad Age, 1/11/2013.

There’s beyond a cogent argument against using “scale” as the measurement of success in advertising models. Buzzfeed’s Jonathan Perelman says it really well in the video below, as does the head of sales for Tumblr, but I’ll summarize and simplify here.

Scale doesn’t mean anything if you’re not effective. Engagement and life of relevance are direct drivers of effectiveness. “Native” ads, content marketing, and other continuing change-ups on the same old-same old “online” ad are what will create engagement in the future, and what will live on past the fractional moment in which the eye tracks a banner.

My apologies for Ad Age’s Flash videos!


I’ve been asked to explain programmatic buying.

So….remember when you, or someone on your team, would review (hopefully on a daily basis at least) your digital ad performance, and re-allocate the buys immediately to optimize your spend? Requiring six calls to one or more agencies and probably a few arguments along the way.

Most tasks like this are better when machines do ’em.

Programmatic buying is part of marketing automation. Set your parameters and you can optimize in real time.

You’ll still be reviewing constantly, but you’ll be far more efficient, and you’ll learn a lot from the patterns that emerge.


The mobile chasm

Having been intensely steeped over the past year in advertising-based digital brand businesses, I have been walking two companies through this.

The mobile chasm is simply this:

Any native digital media brand (read: a company that began as a website or group of websites, and that sells advertising as its primary revenue stream) is now obviously faced with an audience move to the mobile platform. Audiences are rushing to consume content on mobile much more swiftly than advertisers are moving to BUY ads on mobile. (This isn’t “the Facebook mobile problem”, which is that Facebook’s mobile product is not ideally set-up as an ad vehicle; this is a problem for anyone with a well-trafficked web property whose users are moving to mobile.)

No matter how amazing your mobile offering (site or app) and your ability to offer mobile ad choices of many kinds – your audience is moving to this platform faster than your revenue.
How do you focus on mobile as a necessary priority while nurturing the old-school Interwebs place where people are still spending most of their digital media money?

And even more sleepless-night-creating: how do you handle the period soon to come when your users are hugely mobile and media buyers have still not quite caught on? A huge chunk of the media buying community is still busy moving dollars to online from other media. Mobile is barely a twinkle in their eye.

With luck, it’ll be a brief period, because advertisers do follow audiences, but there is going to be catch-up time.

Are you ready for the chasm?


Photo by Doug Brown. Creative Commons.