Advertising to a digital generation

In the digital age, what are advertisers doing to reach young people?

Kai Ryssdal: So here's a not-so-theoretical question about the future of television and the future viewers of television like Rayana Godfrey: How's it all going to be paid for? Ads, probably, of some kind.

Janice Suter is the director of media technology at the ad firm GSD&M in Austin, Texas. She's out at the CES in Las Vegas. Janice, thanks for being here.

Janice Suter: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Ryssdal: So that story that we just heard, what lessons do you take out of that as a professional in the advertising business? I mean, it sort of sounds like you have your work cut out for you with young kids.

Suter: Oh, absolutely. Think about when we were kids, we really didn't have the kind of choice and control over our media and I don't know if I have the brain capacity to be able to take in so much content at one time in so many different formats.

Ryssdal: Yeah. Does it make your job harder though?

Suter: Oh, absolutely. Oh gosh. The younger generation, I think really a lot of people -- including myself -- are engaging with Twitter while they're watching television and it's a way to enhance the experience. So they might be looking for additional information on a character or people following a certain hashtag, what they're saying about a program as it's happening.

Ryssdal: Do you worry that their attention span is so fractured? Not that they can't pay attention, right? I sound like the whole, 'Hey you kids, get off my lot.' But there's so much going on in their lives -- they've got Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and all this stuff. How do you get their attention?

Suter: Well, I think the key is to draw them in enticing ways within content that they're interested in. It's really going against that whole broadcast model where you're being really yelled at in a one-way format. But maybe making branded content on a gaming platform, for example. Or something playful or edgy. But again, it all goes back to that intimacy with the consumer and with their mindset and what makes them tick.

Ryssdal: I wonder if younger viewers today are savvier about advertising just because they've been swamped by really good, clever ads for basically their whole lives.

Suter: Yeah. Absolutely. They're pretty savvy at avoiding. But think about it, ad avoidance has basically been going on forever. I, myself, when I schedule my Tivo program, I'm going to start watching it 20 minutes after it starts.

Ryssdal: Oh yeah. Oh, absolutely.

Suter: It's very strategic. The younger generation, they're just more selective about how they spend their time. We just have to find more creative ways to break through, considering all the various inputs that they're getting all at one time -- and the attention-span issue as well. Digital is like a blank slate. There's lots of new inventory that we can discover along with our vendor partners, our content partners, and then it becomes an adopted, standard media platform. So we're helping to change the business.

Ryssdal: There's all this talk about young viewers now, you have to have them. But the last time I checked, 15 and 18 year olds didn't have a whole lot of disposable income. Youth is good and all that stuff, but why do you need the young viewers? Why the push?

Suter: Well, I think it's growing brand advocates from a young age. I have two daughters that are 9 and 11, and they have a pretty powerful influence on me. A lot of money that I spend is for them. They are influenced by advertising. We need to be responsible in our marketing to kids, but absolutely they have an influence on their parents and their pocketbook.

Ryssdal: Janice Suter, she's the director of digital media technology at GSD&M. It's an ad firm based out of Austin, Texas. We got her at the CES, the Consumer Electronics Show going on in Vegas this week. Janice, thanks a lot.

Suter: Great. Thank you.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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