Reaching the Elusive Young Adult Male, and Actually Getting Him to Listen - Kristin Youngling-BrightLine

Thought Leaders

Young adult males have always been a problem: a problem for their parents and teachers; a problem for their female counterparts; and ever since the creation of advertising, a problem for marketers. Historically, a very difficult demographic to reach, today's young males (defined as 18-24 year-olds) are even more challenging to reach... and engage… given their collective ADD and the recent flood of devices, technologies and other "shiny new" distractions.

So, what's the key to cracking this elusive, yet valuable group of young potential client customers? We call it the "ROSE" factor (an interesting acronym for young males).

  • Relevance of content & delivery
  • Organic & robust user experience
  • Seamless interactivity
  • Entertain & inform

Or, in "guy speak", meet them where they are, with content they care about, and make it easy for them to check it out.

It's easier said than done, though. Young males don't utilize much traditional media. They don't read many magazines (except maybe on their tablets). By the time they learn to read a newspaper, those may well be extinct (or at least transformed). They listen to some radio, but mostly they're listening to music on their smartphones. And while they still watch a handful of TV shows, it's rarely in real-time, and seldom with commercial breaks.

There is, however, one media genre that is gaining in popularity with this group. The release of 7th generation game consoles marks a very real transformation from what used to be a gaming device into a truly multi-dimensional entertainment hub. With a combined 40 million active devices in the U.S., Microsoft's Xbox LIVE and Sony's PlayStation Network platforms are now giving millions access to huge online content libraries, custom apps, social networks and, in case you're bored, video games. Not surprisingly, adoption is quickly on the rise with the number of global subscribers to these platforms' online content services now 40 times what it was just 8 years ago. Usage is also up (30% year over year) and, with non-gaming activities accounting for half of time spent, these platforms are now being used more to access TV, music and movies than to game.

Last year at BrightLine we created more than 40 ad experiences on Xbox and PS3 for brands looking to reach young adult males. This was more than double the previous year's number. It's no surprise that these systems have become many of our clients' preferred medium for engaging this group, because nowhere is the "ROSE" factor more apparent.

It's with this in mind that brands like AXE and Red Bull, who first entered the space in 2009, are now 25 campaigns deep and consistently using gaming platforms to deliver some of the most robust, interactive and rewarding digital ad experiences out there. In addition to a superior user experience, viewer analytics have been a huge factor in the growing inclusion of connected game consoles across brands' marketing mixes. Brands are now more directly able to quantify the impact of their ad spend through these devices and measure the lift in brand KPI's. Not surprisingly, they are seeing that when content is relevant, entertaining and easy to "check out" our guys are eager to engage, clicking through on branded content at rates far beyond online or mobile.

To give you a better sense of exactly what kind of results brands are seeing, let's take a look at a few BrightLine campaigns that were recently designed to harness this behavior. Earlier this year, BrightLine worked with a popular men's hair care brand to engage young males across Xbox LIVE and PS3 using co-branded content from a major motion picture. Effectively reaching viewers as they searched for entertainment on their consoles, the brand generated nearly 5 million engagements in just 2 months, lasting on average 4 minutes each—that's 5 times more engagements and nearly 1/3 more time spent than what's seen across other digital platforms. In a slightly different case, where a well-known soda brand was looking to engage and drive trial among young adult males, but had no real content to leverage, BrightLine built and seeded custom branded games across Xbox LIVE marketplaces. This campaign led to tens of thousands of requests for a free sample, outperforming other proven sampling methods by more than 2X.

So, now that brands have figured out where and how to reach and engage this group, the logical next question is, "what value does this engagement drive for my brand?" Or, in other words, "after engaging with my brand, are these guys more likely to take action?" The answer is, for the hundreds of guys we've asked, a resounding, "Yes." A sentiment that has been confirmed across several effectiveness studies, in which more than 1 in 3 young adult males say they actually purchased after engaging. Herein lies the story of how a once problematic audience is ceasing to be a problem (at least for marketers).

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