Want to know what we millennials really think about mobile advertising?
By Jaymie Wahlen, Optism Youth Advisor, Feb 2, 2011
When I joined the Optism team several weeks ago I was introduced as the new marketing intern who has 4 active mobile phones! With that, I received many warm welcomes from the team as well as a few wise cracks about my (apparently) excessive number of phones. As the youngest member of the Optism team, I seem to have been given the role of “in house youth expert”.
Using my age and mobile phone addiction as my sole qualifications, I found myself making general assertions about opinions of people my age. In order to determine if I have representative opinions and experiences, and to gain a more informed perspective, I decided to chat with my friends about mobile advertising. I spoke with girls and guys between the ages of 19 and 22. All of them are university students from the United States, Germany, England, and Mexico.
My findings reinforced our previous research from the Alcatel-Lucent Youth Lab. I wasn’t shocked to hear that my friends, like me, are completely dependent on their mobile phones. We feel as though our phones connect us to the world and we would be lost without them.
I asked my friends how they would feel without their phone for a weekend:
Emmanuelle, 19, UK: “I would feel isolated, antisocial and worried that I wouldn’t have it if there was an emergency”
Pia, 22, Germany: “Not good! I use my phone to check what my friends are doing and to figure out plans or things to do. Without my phone this would be a lot harder…”
Enrique, 21, Mexico: “I would feel detached from the world. My phone is my way of keeping in touch not only with my friends at college, but also with my family back in Mexico. Without my phone, I would not know what is going on.”
My friends say text messaging is by far the most important thing they use their phones for, with voice calls in a distant second, followed by listening to music and browsing the web. Only two of my friends had smart phones and three of the others didn’t have internet access on their mobiles. All of them use pre-paid contracts rather than pay as you go.
I was surprised to find that my friends were very unfamiliar with the concept of mobile advertising. Most of them are well-educated and from middle class families in developed countries and they seem to have virtually no experience with SMS advertisements. Of the six friends I spoke with, only one could remember ever receiving an SMS advertisement. Interestingly enough, this particular friend remembered receiving SMS ads while growing up in Mexico.
Enrique: “I did not mind the first text I received, but after receiving about 5 or 6 in a row (all within 30 minutes) I got really annoyed. I texted back and requested that they stop texting me, but it did not work. I had not agreed to receive mobile ads, so I was not expecting the annoyance to occur. Also, what really annoyed me was that the information which was being shared was completely irrelevant to me.”
Enrique’s attitude toward mobile advertising is likely to hold true for the rest of my friends. We are open to receiving ads as long as we can have some control of the interactions. We don’t want to feel like we are getting spammed with intrusive and irrelevant ads. I find this is common of my generation; we like being able to call the shots and having some degree of control. We need to feel important and we expect instant gratification. Most of my friends said they would be much more responsive to mobile advertising if they were asked permission before being sent ads and if they could opt-out at any time. Even after his bad first impression of mobile advertising, Enrique said he would definitely give it another try if he was asked permission.
We millennials have a broad concern for privacy but our standards for privacy are drastically lower than previous generations. Most of my friends would happily volunteer personal information if they knew who had the information and how it would be used. If we are confident that we can call the shots we are more likely to opt-in. I asked my friends if they would provide personal information in order to receive ads specifically tailored to them, and again, their willingness came down to control.
Jen, 21, US: “I would only agree to provide information if I could adjust it in the future”
Enrique: “It depends on the person/entity that will be analyzing my information and for what purposes they need all my information.”
The millennial generation poses an interesting challenge for marketers. As a millennial, I feel confident saying that there is a huge opportunity to capture our attention with mobile advertising…. but it must be on our terms.