The Funnel

Advertising to Millennials in 2019: Are they finally adults?

How do millennials react to advertising and behave online?

Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissts who still live with their parents.

That's according to the cover of the May 20, 2013 issue of Time magazine.


Source: Time

Fast forward six years later and how much has changed?

Quite a lot, at least according to a recent report by eMarketer that looked at millennials and how they behave online.

And while the jury may still be out on whether this generation is lazy and narcissistic, one thing millennials are doing less and less of is living with their parents.

In fact, many have become full-fledged adults. They have married, bought a house and have had kids. Half of millennials are now over thirty.

Yes, the generation accused of being perpetual teenagers without a sense of responsibility seems to be finally growing up. eMarketer's report looks at how this is changing the way they behave online and gives some interesting statistics.

What does your typical millennial look like in 2019?

eMarketer defines millennials as born between 1981-1996. Roughly half are in their thirties.

US census data highlights some of the adult-like features of millennials:

  • 25.7% of 35-39s are single
  • 38.4% of 30-34s are single

  • 53% of women aged 25-29 have not had a kid.
  • 30.8% of women aged 30-34 have not had a kid.
  • 18.5% of women aged 35-39 have not had a kid.

  • 8 out of 10 people aged 25-44 are employed.

  • 57.8% of 35-39s own a home
  • 48% of 30-34s are homeowners.

What does this data show? In short, millennials are finally becoming adults. A significant portion are married, have bought houses, have jobs and have had kids.

How does this affect their online behavior?

As adults, millennials tend to be less interested in what is hip or cool. They will use Facebook because it is convenient and they don't care if it isn't trendy among younger folks. Millennials are less inclined to experiment with new platforms and technologies. They know what they like and don't like and stick to it.

And one of the things millennials stick to like glue are their smartphones.

What devices do millennials use?

eMarketer estimates that 94% of millennials will own and use a smartphone in 2019.

The stereotype that millennials are addicted to their phones is pretty accurate, according to the report.

Millennials use smartphones more than laptops and desktops, and they use smartphones to such an extent that it has kept them from buying other technology like wearables and smart speakers.

A September 2018 OpenX/Harris Poll survey found that 97% of 18-34s reported using smartphones regularly, whereas only 72% said the same for laptops and and only 33% for desktop computers.

Millennials are also spending several hours a day using their smartphones.

Around 73% of 18-29 year olds reported spending four hours per day using a smartphone according to a poll by Morning Consult in June 2018. That number fell to 59% for 30-44 year olds.

Nielsen data for Q2 2018 showed 18-34 year olds spent more time using apps and the web on their smartphones than they did watching TV.

What kind of apps do millennials use?

According to ThinkNow Research, millennials use the following kinds of apps on their phones:

  • 80% social networking
  • 67% music streaming
  • 66% gaming
  • 60% communications
  • 59% weather
  • 56% maps/navigation
  • 55% entertainmaent.

Research by Magid poll in June 2018 revealed 22% of 18-34 year olds use smartphones as their primary source for entertainment. For the rest of the population (8-64 year olds), that number falls to 15%.

Are millennials using other technologies?

Sort of. eMarketer shows that voice assistants are gaining popularity, with 47% of millennials expected to use voice assistants on their smartphones in 2019.

That figure falls to just 31.4% for Generation X and 18.3% for Baby boomers.

Outside of smartphones, the most popular devices include:

  • Tablets: 56% of millennials expected to use one in 2019
  • Wearables: 35% are expected to use in 2019.

In contrast, only 25% of Generation X will use wearables this year and a mere 9% of Baby boomers.

How do millennials use social media?

According to eMarketer:

  • 90.4% of millennials will use social media in 2019
  • 77.5% of Generation X will use social media in 2019
  • 48.2% of Baby boomers will use social media in 2019
  • 79.1% of 18-38 year-olds use social media daily
  • 18-34 year olds spend 8 hours per week browsing social media
  • 65% of 18-34 year olds browse social media in their beds every night.

eMarketer notes that millennials are different to teens in the way they use social media in that they tend to take a more passive approach and consume content rather than produce.

Teens on the other hand (13-19) tend to use social media as a means of self-expression and content creation, vlogging and posting about their lives to a much greater extent.

One reason millennials may be posting less to social media is growing worry about how their data is being handled by social media networks.

56% of 18-35s voiced very little or no trust that their data would be protected by social networks, according to the report.

What social media platforms do US millennials use most?

Facebook is the most popular social media platform used by US millennials.

A poll by Roth Capital Partners of 18-38 year olds found the following usage patterns among this age group.

Facebook - 64.9%
YouTube - 60.6%
Instagram - 55.3%
Snapchat - 41.5%
Twitter - 27.7%
Pinterest - 24.5%
LinkedIn - 12.3%
Other - 8.1%
None - 5%

And according to a study by Cowen and Company in Q4 2018, 25-34s spent the following amount of time on these social networks each day:

Facebook - 55 minutes
Instagram - 39 minutes
Snapchat - 32 minutes
Twitter - 29 minutes

Taken together, these stats show that Facebook still reigns supreme among millennials.

Despite growing popularity of a #deletefacebook movement and the negative press Facebook received following the Cambridge Analytica controversy, millennials are remaining loyal to the platform and checking it every day.

After Facebook, eMarketer gave the following estimates for which social media platforms millennials would use in 2019:

Instagram - 61.5%
Snapchat - 51.8%
Pinterest - 39%
Twitter - 28.2%
Tumblr - 16%
Reddit - 13%

Millennials and video

Millennials still tend to watch traditional TV, but the trend is rapidly shifting toward digital streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

According to eMarketer's report, 18-34 year olds spent an average of 6.7 hours a week watching video from a paid subscription service like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Add to this about 5.2 hours a week where millennials watch video clips online on sites like YouTube, along with 3.5 hours of online TV from services like Hulu.

Taken together that is a lot of hours of online video per week.

What's also interesting is where millennials are watching TV.

A little over 40% of 18-34 year olds said they watch video on their smartphones every night before going to bed.

In fact, smartphones are the primary source for watching videos for millennials, even more than comptuers or TV sets.

Millennials and Netflix

Netflix was cited as the favorite video content provider among 18-24s, 25-34s and 35-49s in a poll by MullenLowe MediaHub in April 2018.

Similarly, 39.7% of 18-34s reported Netflix as the platform they view video content on the most. Basic cable stood at just 12.5%, followed by broadcast TV at 7.5%.

A June 2018 poll by HubResearch found that 18-34 year olds viewed Netflix (35%) more often than live TV (25%). When it comes to 35-54 year olds it was only 19% for Netflix and 41% for live TV.

Millennials and YouTube

The second most popular online video content provider is YouTube. According to the eMarketer:

  • 80% of 18-29 year olds use YouTube, 72% of 30-44 year olds.
  • 17% of 18-34 year olds said YouTube is the platform they use most often to watch video.
  • 46% of 25-34 year olds said they have started watching more YouTube videos in the past year.

Millennials and Traditional TV

While Netflix and YouTube are the rising stars, traditional TV is not dead yet. According to eMarketer, 36% of 18-34 year olds watch three hours of TV every day.

eMarketer notes that a lot of millennials aren't necessarily replacing traditional TV with streaming services. Rather, streaming services tend to supplement the regular TV they watch.

Likewise, there tend to simply be two types of millennials, those that watch a lot of TV (and are more likely to watch Netflix) and those that don't watch TV and avoid streaming services. This second type of millenial is more likely to use YouTube when watching videos online.

Still eMarketer says traditional TV watch rates are declining, with daily TV viewership expected to fall to just barely two hours per day in 2019, down from 145 minutes in 2016.

Millennials and Amazon

Another online activity that millennials engage in is eCommerce and online shopping.

eMarketer estimates that 84.8% of millennials will buy something online in 2019. Contrast this to just 77.5% for Generation X and 59% for Baby boomers.

Interestingly, a Max Borges survey in June 2018 found that 44% of 18-34 year olds would rather give up sex for a year than quit Amazon. The same survey found that 62% of 18-38 year olds used Amazon Prime.

But while more and more millennials are ordering online, that doesn't mean that physical stores are doomed.

eMarketer found that while millennials often do their research online on whether to buy a product, their preferred method of shopping was still to pick up in store. In particular, they prefer the following:

  • 45.8% - Do research digitally but buy in-store
  • 21.8% - Buy digitally without visiting a store
  • 16.2% - Do research in-store, buy digitally
  • 11.1% - Do research and buy in-store only
  • 5.1% - Other

Millennials prefer to shop online not just because it is convenient. They also do so because of price, with goods online tending to cost less than in store.

How do millennials react to ads?

Perhaps the most interesting part of the eMarketer report has to do with how millennials react to advertising:

  • 40.3% said they "don't make purchase decisions based on advertising"
  • 32.6% said that "advertising is a waste of time"
  • 39.1% said "ads help me learn about products that companies offer"

The degree to which digital ads are effective on millennials is also questionable:

  • 25% have never bought something because of a mobile ad
  • 34% have almost never bought anything because of a mobile ad

One thing millennials seem to hate are video ads.

  • Only 7% had a positive view of video ads
  • 40% had a somewhat negative opinion
  • 38% had a very negative opinion

To avoid ads, millennials are increasingly using ad blockers.

  • 33.1% of millennials use an ad blocker
  • 27.6% of Gen X
  • 16.4% of Baby boomers.

Advertisers may be tempted to solve this problem by making ads more personal and customized. But evidence shows that even personalized ads aren't working for millennials.

  • 46.4% called personalized ads helpful but somewhat disconcerting
  • 20.3% called personalized ads frightening

In any case, millennials are tough customers. It's not enough to show them a highly relevant, personalized ad. They do their own research online, read reviews by friends, and will quickly drop brands in favor of new ones if a new and better offer arrives.

Even so, there are some broad conclusions we can draw:

  1. Millennials love their mobile phones and use them several hours a day.
  2. Millennials still use Facebook, mainly to keep in touch with old friends and family.
  3. Millennials are watching less and less TV and transitioning toward streaming services.
  4. Millennials are finally becoming adults.

Keep these facts in mind when targeting this demographic with ads in 2019.

You can read the full eMarketer report here.

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