Age changes how we access video content and view video marketing. Younger consumers are more digital, more mobile and, surprisingly, more skeptical towards branded content.

A simple theory of technology and its mainstream adoption runs like this: What young people do today, older people will, generally, do tomorrow.

This is evidenced academically by “early adopters” typically being younger in Roger’s classic Five Customer Segments of Technology Adoption, and also practically by many “trickle up” examples such as the growth in Facebook users.

So when we examine global attitudes and behavior towards video content across a wide range of screens by age, the purpose is to try to garner a glimpse of the future.

The market research firm I work for, Millward Brown, recently conducted a study on how people across various demographics respond to video ads. For this study, we interviewed 13,500 multiscreen consumers aged 16-45 in 42 countries. Within this sample, we compared responses among 16-24-year olds (the mobile-first generation), 25-34s (the desktop-first generation), and 35-45s (most of whom can still remember a time before computers became omnipresent).

This analysis showed that, globally, younger groups – the 16-24s – have a much higher consumption of video on digital screens, averaging 94 minutes on smartphones and laptops each day, compared to 62 minutes for 35-45s (an age gap of 32 minutes).

younger audiences


This gap is fairly consistent around the world, just slightly wider in some major markets, with younger groups averaging even more time a day on smartphones and laptops in Brazil (44 mins), the US (35 mins), and slightly smaller in others such as China (25 mins).

The younger cohort also watch much more on-demand content – 43 minutes to 31 minutes among older groups each day – while 35s to 45s consume far more live TV – 75 minutes a day compared to 46 minutes for younger groups.

But it’s not always as simple as saying what 16-24s do today, 25-34s will do tomorrow and older cohorts will adopt later.

There are also some differences in how and where younger people watch video. For example, 16-24s are more likely to watch video in other people’s houses (18% vs. 11% among 35-45s) and less likely to watch video at work (11% vs 21%). Of course, this particular behavior is less likely to predict the future since it mainly reflects their stage of life.

We also see relatively little divergence in attitudes to video advertising. Globally, receptivity to video ads is very slightly higher among 25-34s than it is among both 16-24s and those over 35. This holds true for video ads on TV, laptop, and smartphones, so perhaps younger people are a little more idealistic and think content should be free, while older people are a little more jaded and ad resistant. However, this trend does not hold true in all markets. In the US, for instance, receptivity to video ads is actually slightly lower among 25-34s.

What is universally true is that all consumers much prefer rewards-based video ad formats and skippable video ads. They detest non-skippable video ad formats.

We do see clear generational differences when we look beyond paid advertising and examine attitudes to branded content. This is supposed to be a panacea for brands looking to engage younger consumers with interesting information and entertainment, so common wisdom would suggest these kinds of marketing approaches would be most popular among 16-24s.

older audiences

The reality is that this group is far less receptive to all forms of branded content than 35-45s, including the tutorials and reviews they are supposed to love.

The gap in favorability rises to 15 percentage points for expert review videos, but younger consumers are also less keen on website videos, user reviews, and tutorials (gap of 10 points for each) and shopping videos (gap of nine points).

The best way to overcome this resistance is to add celebrities to the mix. Online celebrity videos are the only form of branded content where 16-24s have the same level of favorability as their older counterparts.

Reaching the younger generation seems to require a dose of star-dust, which may explain why so many youth-focused brands are working with YouTube vloggers and Vine-lebrities to develop their content.

The new mobile-first generation is not going to be an easy marketing nut to crack. Younger mobile users are clearly spending less time passively absorbing TV advertising and more time actively consuming digital video content.

While they are not any more closed to traditional paid video advertising formats than earlier generations, they are surprisingly more resistant to most of the branded content approaches that marketers are starting to adopt.

More work is clearly required to truly understand what makes younger consumers tick and which video marketing approaches, especially digital and mobile, they will respect and respond to in the years to come.

Duncan Southgate is Global Brand Director for Digital at global market research firm Millward Brown. He has 19 years of brand, communications, and media research experience gathered in various European, US and global roles with Millward Brown. He is currently responsible for growing the company’s digital business and is based in Frankfurt, Germany. 

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