Turner Turns Research Focus to Young Viewers

The younger generations of media consumer was the focus of a conference hosted by Turner Broadcasting Wednesday.

Turner owns cable networks Adults Swim, which is dominant among millennial viewers, and Cartoon Network, which last year grew its ratings with kids.

 Younger viewers are at the forefront of changing media habits as consumers choose from a widening array of content whenever they want on an array of digital devices. That’s making counting them and monetizing them through advertising more and more challenging.

Turner called its conference “Deep Shift: Dealing with Disruption & The Young Media Consumer” and featured speakers in research, advertising and programming, as well as members of the generations under discussion, who provided first hand insights on how they make their media choices.

“Our goal is to become a trusted advisor to our partners and share what we learn about the marketplace,” said Howard Shimmel, COO of Turner, which is aggressively trying to become a thought leader when it comes to young consumers and advertising effectiveness as it completes with Disney and Viacom’s Nickelodeon.

Turner on Tuesday also announced plans to start an Ad Lab that will work with research companies, ad tech companies and media buyers to study issues including advertising loads and branded content.

At the conference, speakers focused on millennials in the morning and plurals, the even younger generation, after lunch and after school, when a few of them could answer questions about their TV, smartphone and social media habits.

Because of touchscreens on tablets and smartphones, plurals, now in the in the 2 to 17 year old age bracket, “have never known a time they could not choose the experience they want,” said Stacey Matthians of the research company Insight Kids. Unlike millennials who had to learn to use computer mice, plurals can work digital devices “even before they can speak in complete sentences.

For plurals, the tablet and phone, rather than the TV, is the first screen. And while for millennials, who feel some angst or FOMO in dealing with the vast array of media choices provided in a digital landscape, plurals revel in choices and their control makes them feel powerful, Matthias said.

“They expect that the way they get consumer content will always be changing,” Matthias said. They will be the first adopters of technology in the household and their behavior will trickle up to their parents.

Plurals require both long-form and short-form content when consuming a piece of intellectual property. She cited a survey that found that 71% of them say the look up content related to the shows they’re watching before during and after consuming linear content. That makes them uniquely able to pursue niche programming about subject they’re passionate about.

Matthias said the three keys to winning the hearts and minds of plurals were to be “mobile, mobile mobile.” IP has to have different versions that are relevant for 4 year olds and 13 year olds, and make play experiences customizable, like Minecraft.

Advertising to plurals will have to be highly visually engaging and relevant to where they are in life. “They’re saving about navigating around it. If the ad is good, offering an entertainment experience and connected to content, they’re much more likely to engage it, watch it and maybe even share it,” she said. “If it doesn’t check those boxes,” she warned, “another option is just at tap away.”

A panel addressed how programmers and marketers are dealing with the plural generation.

Laura Post, who does research for toymaker Lego said TV and 30 second spots “are still the core of our media and still the most effective.”  But she added that what is evolving and challenging is building the experiences that surround consumers and that where new digital media alternatives become key.

Sheri Roder, chief of Horizon Media’s Why unit, said she expected advertising and media plans to become seamless in serving people with ads that are going to assess her mood and find a way to make her happy.

This next generation will expect to be able to “choose what ads they want to see or time shift advertising or have interactions with the brand rather than watching passively a 30-second spot,” said Charles Melcher of Melcher Media.

The never-overlooked millennial generation was the focus of the morning sessions.

Mike Bloxham of Frank N. Magid Associates, said that despite gloomy generalizations, millennials are still big consumers of television, especially as they become parents. “Parents are the heaviest consumers of video across the board. Students have a life, they go out more.”

In a survey, millennials admitted that TV advertising is a way they get information, right after different forms of word of mouth, but ahead of internet advertising, radio advertising and print.

“Millennials are desperately marketing savvy,” Bloxham said. “The basis for sustainable brand relationships is not only quality and price. Those are a given. It’s going to be about building a brand relationship of choice.” For millennials, a brand has to have a personality, even a sense of humor.

A brand that does a great job targeting millennials is Red Bull. Some airlines, like Virgin are also good, while Delta seems to be trying too hard, using a squadron of YouTube personalities in its videos.

On a panel featuring marketers and media agencies execs, Michael Donnelly of Mastercard noted that most of the generalizations about the behavior of millennials are wrong. Those generalizations are that “millennials don’t watch TV, they don’t like advertising, they don’t use Facebook. It’s grossly wrong.”

Kris Magel of media agency Initiative noted that many millennials are now over 30. “You have to be smart about segmenting them by lifestage.”

Magel added that many clients seem to be pre-occupied with strategizing about millennials even when that’s not their customer base. And client might be well advised to create different media plans for consumers 45 years of age and older and for consumers younger than 45.

Rob Norman, chief digital officer of GroupM noted that if the media plan that launched the iPhone used lots of TV and movie advertising and a negligible amount of digital advertising.

Norman added that marketers have digital tool that give them more information about short term results. “Brand builders who are the key funders of these [media] enterprises are too distracted by short-terms metrics at the expense of long-terms brand health.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.