Marketing to Millennials? It’s Time to Divest From Facebook Ads


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The conventional wisdom is that Millennials and Generation Z are earnest, open, and optimistic, and that may be true to some extent. But recent studies have shown that when it comes to marketing, they’re considerably more cynical than we realize.

Of course, they weren’t always so jaded. But more than any other generation, they’ve dealt with unprecedented intrusions into their privacy. From Facebook security flaws that expose their personal information and photos, to the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, to remarketing ads that seem to follow them around the internet (more on those later), you can understand why they’ve taken a defensive posture when it comes to their online interactions.

But how do you market to a demographic that has come to see the internet as an online panopticon, where the forces of surveillance capitalism seek to monetize their every like and view? Let’s look at some of the numbers.

It’s a Trust Issue

Clever Real Estate’s latest marketing study confirms that trust is also at an all-time low. Only 15% of 18-to-24-year-olds in our survey reported that they’d be willing to submit their personal information in exchange for an informative, downloadable guide. The era of building up your email list just by asking is in the past.

In general, 74% of Millennials report that they find social media advertisements “annoying.” Clearly digital natives have soured on attempts to reach them where they live online.

And where do they live? Increasingly, not on Facebook; compared to other generations, young adults were significantly less likely to buy a product or service after seeing it advertised on Facebook than older generations. This demographic is migrating to other social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube, and you’ll need to follow if you want to reach them.

Clearly Facebook is still a valuable tool for marketers, but it’s important for advertisers to begin diversifying their social media portfolios.

How you reach them is also changing. Increasingly, millennials don’t respond to ads that try to be emotional or inspiring. Survey results show that 44% of millennials preferred humorous ads, and 30% preferred a straightforwardly informative one. Only 16% of millennials preferred inspiring ads, and only 6% preferred emotional ads.

When Tracking Feels Like Stalking

Now we come to the elephant in the room: remarketing. A whopping 85% of millennials find it “creepy or annoying” when ads follow them around the internet. If remarketing is a big part of your advertising strategy, you might want to consider scaling it back.

Parsing the numbers paints a more nuanced picture. According to a study by marketing firm InSkin Media, the number of times a consumer sees a remarketed advertisement has a major impact on how they feel about it.

Their research shows that the first 1-3 times a consumer views an ad, they feel neutral or positive about it. When that number rises to 5 times, the primary reaction is annoyance. And at the 10-view mark, the consumer actually feels anger.

What’s the takeaway? Remarketing is still a valuable tool for marketers, but it should be used in moderation, and its reach deliberately limited.

It’s probably not that surprising, in retrospect, that people wouldn’t want an online ad following them around endlessly any more than they’d want an real-life salesperson shadowing their every move. And that sort of common sense characterizes a lot of our findings.

Millennials don’t want to be followed around by ads; they want those ads to be informative rather than manipulative, and they’d prefer to keep their personal info confidential to preserve what privacy they have left. When you put it like that, can you really blame them?

Ben Mizes
Ben Mizes is the co-founder and CEO of Clever Real Estate, a real estate tech startup. A serial entrepreneur, Ben ran several successful startups before Clever Real Estate. Ben's writing has been featured in Yahoo Finance, Realtor News, CNBC, and BiggerPockets.


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