5 Effective Ways to Advertise to Millennials

By Ian Heinig / 07 February 2018

Millennials possess an estimated lifetime value of $10 trillion – and they’re not going anywhere. Here are 5 proven ways to advertise to this cagey, yet profitable, demographic.

Advertising has traditionally been a game of show and tell. Feature your product or service and tell the audience about it, then some will buy. 

The problem with advertising to millennials is they refuse to listen

With a knee-jerk disapproval of direct ads, millennials confound most advertisers. They’re also the most diverse, educated, and independent of any generation – representing nearly 30% of the U.S. population

Projected population by generation
Source: Pew Research Center

Unfortunately, millennials also have the lowest ad memorability and ad program engagement. But, they are receptive to brand storytelling that resonates with their lifestyle.

To reach this group, help them make informed decisions about products or services that align with their identity. 

The challenge is showing that your brand is worth the purchase, not telling. When advertising to millennials, a narrative and emotive approach that hinges on mobile engagement is critical.

Today we discuss five effective approaches for advertising to millennials:

  1. Tell a story with video

  2. Take a stance

  3. Promote on Reddit

  4. Reach across channels

  5. Boost visibility with search

1. Tell a Story With Video

Millennials don’t want to read about your brand – they want to see it. 

Watching a brand’s story on video feels more authentic. Viewing how a product is created or used is more engaging and can be more informative. 

To create effective video ads, distill your brand essence and spin it to be humorous, dramatic, or mysterious.

What’s the most critical element of video advertising?

"You have to establish interest or relevance to a consumer in the first six seconds. It's a different type of storytelling," says Ed McLoughlin, HP's Head of Global Media. 

While YouTube reaches more 18-49 year-olds in the U.S. than any traditional TV network, don’t skip Facebook video. 

The social media giant’s native videos have an average engagement rate of 6.3%, compared to 3.2% for Youtube and 0.2% for Instagram. 

Performance metrics of videos posted on Facebook worldwide
Source: eMarketer

Your audience is ready to watch. When surveyed by eMarketer in 2017, 42% of millennials said they check their social media feed at least every five hours

2. Take a Stance

Millennials seek both authenticity and value. Taking a strong position (without any positioning) will allow you to reach these purpose-driven purchasers.

A study by the University of Southern California’s School of Applied Psychology found that 87% of millennials claim to base their purchasing decision on whether a company makes a positive social effort.

Brands that evoke a heartfelt connection will win the respect and loyalty of millennials.

For example, Warby Parker donates a pair of eyeglasses to a person in need for each pair purchased.

Warby Parker screenshot

Giving a voice to your organization within the social and political climate demonstrates your empathy and evokes a response.

Research by the advisory firm Forrester Research found that a strong emotional connection is a stronger driver of loyalty than either “ease” or “effectiveness.”

Finding common ground apart from your business allows you to engage millennials and retain their repeat revenue.

3. Promote on Reddit

You can run a promotion on Reddit, “The Front Page of the Internet,” for $0.75 per thousand pageviews. 

Yes, the 1.5 million monthly Redditors frown upon posting branded content within the feed. However, advertising on Reddit is a cheap way to generate awareness within a highly engaged audience. 

20% of internet users between the ages of 18-29 use Reddit, and 15% of all millennial males use it, according to the Pew Research Center.

Graph of reddit users
Source: Pew Internet

Pay-per-click ads on Reddit are targeted within subreddits that attract very niche and active audiences. Helpful content is always welcome, so write ads that read like a Reddit post. 

Reddit screenshot

A case study by web design company ShivarWeb found that investing less than $100 on Reddit earned 75,000 impressions, 347 clicks, and 5 conversions. 

Aside from running banner ads at the top of subreddits, you can also buy all the subreddit ad inventory for up to three months. Thing is, you can only run promotions atop subreddits that have sufficient pageviews in your campaign period (about 6,600 in 3 months). 

Tools like RedditList or SnoopSnoo will help you dig up valuable subreddits.

4. Reach Across All Channels

Brands must be present across all channels to reach millennials. 

Given their culture of multitasking, 18-34 year-olds switch devices and platforms quickly, especially while watching TV. This can effectively negate the impact of single-channel advertising. 

To reach your audience where they are, divide your ad spend across multiple relevant channels. According to Think With Google, “think multi-screen, but build for mobile.” 

Cross-channel content has a greater likelihood of generating exposure, helping to increase engagement and brand perception. 

For example, if you post a video on YouTube or run a TV spot, start a concurrent conversation on Twitter with a branded hashtag. Or, post a “behind the scenes” clip on Facebook to drum up interest for the longer ad spot. 

To drive views for the hit series “Narcos,” Netflix reached millennials with an education-based campaign across social. 

Screenshot of Narcos advertisement

Using evocative factoids like those shown in this Instagram post, the #Cokenomics campaign generated over 100,000 interactions on social. “Narcos” also created Facebook graphics for specific current events such as fantasy football and the political debates. 

Adding relevant value on social allowed Netflix to increase its visibility when it mattered. This translated into enhanced exposure and impact for its paid advertising.

5. Boost Visibility With Search

Search advertising is an effective way to advertise to millennials directly. 

Search engines are the most popular way for millennials (70%) to research prices and products, according to a study by the publishing initiative, The Media Insight Project

What millennials search for most often
Source: American Press Institute

Paid ads on Google will reach interested millennials while they’re researching prices, interests, how-to information, and jobs. Targeting and retargeting searchers around these points of access can provide optimal ad exposure and conversions.

From the education to conversion stage, mobile-optimized search ads are critical throughout the buyer’s journey. According to research by the creative marketplace Gumroad:

  • 75% of millennials are price-checking on mobile

  • 65% of millennials are conducting research on mobile

  • 55% of millennials are searching for a store location on mobile

Oftentimes, these mobile searches are conducted with the intent to purchase locally. Advertisers can capitalize on purchase intent with hyper-local ad campaigns for ready-to-convert customers. 

Advertising to Millennials

As the first digital-native generation, millennials are immune to direct sales. This group thinks of brands as incidental, not vital. 

To advertise to millennials successfully, find ways to display your brand as the relevant and trustworthy ally. Do this and your advertising will successfully attract, engage, and convert this cagey demographic.

Consider fusing TV and social for more success when advertising to millennials. Learn how.

Lead capture icon


Based on your budget, timeline, and specifications we can help you build a shortlist of companies that perfectly matches your project needs. Get a free shortlist of best-fit companies from a Manifest Analyst.