Are your ads boring? Gen Y probably thinks so.

Every year since my freshman year of college (2006! Yikes!) I have visited Southside High School, my alma mater, to talk about St. Bonaventure University with current high school students.

This year, I was happy to have a fellow SHSer/Bonnie to return with. It’s always an easier task when you’re not alone, and this student, a Bonaventure freshman, knew a lot more people at the high school than I did since she recently graduated.

While we were there, one of her friends came up and we all talked or a while. Part of our conversation went something like this:

Student: What’s your major?

Me: I’m a graduate student. I study integrated marketing communications.

Student: (Quizzically) Oh, what kind of classes do you take with that?

Me: Well, recently I took a new media class that was a lot of fun because we got to blog and use Twitter and stuff. Before that I took a class on advertising.

Student: Advertising? That sounds boring.

I think I responded with something like, “No, I enjoy it.” And the conversation moved on.

But later I got thinking about this. Boring? That’s not what most people say when you mention advertising.

Now, obviously, this was a high school student who certainly doesn’t know all there is to know about careers, let alone a career in advertising (I certainly didn’t at his age).

However, his remark describes how many Gen Yers view advertising: It’s stupid, boring and annoying.

Being a Millennial myself, I certainly see where my generation is coming from. I have had similar boring, corny, annoy experiences with ads that get in the way of what I really want – a show, a webpage, a song, etc.

While some young adults dislike advertising, it still has a place in society, at least for the foreseeable future. Moving forward, it’s important companies make sure their advertising does two things:

  1. Fits your brand and your product/service
  2. Fits your audience

First, your marketing must fit your brand’s personality. If your brand focuses heavily on being innovative, creative and fresh-thinking, it should reflect that in ads or other marketing pieces. If it doesn’t, consumers will become confused or disinterested.

Secondly, let’s face it: An ad for a retirement community will not resonate with teenagers. Period. It just won’t interest teenagers.

But show them a commercial for a new cell phone and things might change.

That comparison illustrates part of the problem with traditional advertising, a tactic that is not personal and that assumes everyone watching that channel or reading that magazine has at least some kind of interest in that product or service.

Gen Y wants something that’s personal. They might not know it, but they value relationships more than anything. As the student unknowingly illustrated, advertising is being talked to and being talked to is often boring.

Having a conversation on something that interests you is fun. Advertising can start that conversation, but opening a conversation is just a piece of the beginning of a relationship. After the ad is shown, it’s up to the marketer to take away the “boring” factor by building a genuine customer-brand relationship.


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