Reaching Seattle’s Elusive 18-24 Year-old Consumers and Voters

Digital devices have replaced live TVAs long as I have been in this business, the holy grail of media targets has been the youngest of adults. This occurs mostly as their reach plays out in television ratings where the big brands want to establish loyalty before this target’s first independent consumer decisions, and generally happens at the exclusion of other media vehicles. But young adults also are on the radar of political pundits, thinking they are the key to winning in 2012. Honestly, this always has baffled me and I have argued, mostly unsuccessfully, that with obvious exceptions, the influence, buying power and electoral sway lies in other demographics and media. Even with the surge of online and increasingly fragmented television audiences, TV remains the darling of media buyers. But I’m not here to bash TV ─ I’m a fan, and I should be, because I am in the demo that it actually reaches.

I did, however, feel somewhat validated when Ypulse, a youth-oriented research firm, recently reported that nearly three quarters of young adults could imagine life without TV. Furthermore, less than half of college students ─ the potentially most influential 18-24 year-old segment ─ actually watch TV programming on a television set most of the time. Not that they aren’t watching TV, but how they are watching has changed significantly and fairly rapidly, and that viewing is occurring across a range of platforms ─ online and on mobile devices, including tablets.

This is, after all, the first generation to grow up “digital” and their comfort level with the Internet and technology overall makes online a perfect, albeit highly fragmented platform for pitching the youngest adult consumers. Many of them grew up with DVRs attached to their TV sets (43% of U.S. households have them) and have an expectation about watching television on their own schedules. The recent announcement from comScore that Hulu’s audience had grown 23% year-over-year YOY) November ─ to 34.5 million unique viewers (averaging 297,000 in the Seattle-Tacoma DMA) ─ indicates alternative-delivery methods are cannibalizing traditional TV viewing, and the trend will continue. That said, among the 90,000 18-24 year olds in the Seattle market who regularly use Hulu, that number actually is off YOY, by 37%, so maybe even Hulu has lost its sheen with this fickle demographic in our technologically forward market.

The laptop replaces the TV even in the living roomWill TV Sets Become Obsolete?

While some speculate that television sets will go the way of the telephone land line with this demographic, there are other considerations, such as children or sports fans in the household where group viewing still is commonplace. Bottom line, TV no longer offers a captive audience and viewing is a totally untethered activity. If you are making a time-sensitive offer and catching viewers during the live program is key, you may want to check out the social-media rating and guide services such as Trendrr.tv, Get Glue and SocialGuide, Inc.  This is the crowd that is most engaged with the show and doesn’t want to be left out of the conversation. Of course, they may be using the commercial time to do all that social connecting, but if your messaging is appropriate and unique, it could be your best “live” indicator. If you don’t think this is important, try viewing any youth-targeted show without a social-media snipe running across the bottom or a promo encouraging social-media connection. The plus side to this is that the highest-rated shows for attracting the most target viewers, and therefore carrying the highest spot costs, may not have the highest engagement ratings, therefore making a high-buzz/lower-rating TV buy affordable. To no one’s surprise, the networks now are making the case to advertisers that a highly engaged audience is worthy of a premium! Alas.

The Challenge: Be Everywhere, Whenever, With Relevant and Engaging Messaging

The daunting and almost impossible ad breakthrough challenge for media buyers and planners then, is to be everyplace that they are ─ on streaming video, online radio, TV, radio, social media and yes, even newspapers and magazines ─ advertising in as many appropriate media as possible, reaching them the way they want to be reached with creative messaging appropriate to the medium, but supporting all other messaging!

Seattle’s Most Relevant Media May Surprise You

So how do you reach the 396,000 elusive 18-24 year-old consumers in the Seattle market? The answers might surprise you. Top 20 media for reaching 18-24 year olds in SeattleWhile they aren’t the heaviest of traditional radio listeners, music really resonates with this cohort, so it comes as no surprise that the one-day reach of local radio stations captures six of the Top 10 spots and 11 of the Top 20 ranking media vehicles, with KUBE-FM the clear winner. But what may come as a surprise is that the 4th ranking one-day reach of KING-TV outperforms youth-oriented KCPQ-TV and KZJO-TV.

For many of you, even more surprising, is the strong showing of single insertions in the Weekday (11th) or Sunday Seattle Times (7th). For all the noise about the death of newspapers, they’re still a strong component of a solid media mix for this demographic. They may not be every-day readers, but Seattle’s 18-24 year-old adults still show up for the content that has meaning for them, especially on Sundays for both news and advertising information, and for weekday lifestyle and entertainment packaging. A week’s worth of readers at The Stranger, the default go-to print resource for this demo, helps push that publication into the #18 spot. Possibly also surprising, is the lack of a single online property in the Top 20, which illustrates the high fragmentation, but not necessarily ineffectiveness, of this medium. The top-rated local online properties are KOMOnews.com (21st) and Seattletimes.com, coming in at 23rd.

Dig a Little, Spend a Lot Less and Prosper

Never has it been more important to work the media than with this target. In today’s reality, no media budget can afford to throw out a big net in one medium hoping to snag a sufficient number of the desired target. Unfortunately, planners and buyers still are entrenched in what they know and end up constantly optimizing for what’s always worked, more often than not with automated algorithms and broad swipes at demographics for the sake of efficiency. But the new world, and especially this multi-tasking demographic, is demanding multiplicity of messaging, driven by imaginative and daring strategies with consideration given to all media channels and sub-channels, not just the obvious ones.

Finding the best channels within each medium is just the beginning ─ maintaining common sense and getting really good at the complexity of the long-tail (less obvious) media execution will result in significant bottom-line benefits. In the Seattle market it begins here:

The media that resonate most with Seattle adults ages 18-24
Source: Scarborough Research, 2011 Release 2

Surprised? Not so much on the top radio stations, social-media channels and job sites, but check out these other gems. The Cartoon Network, and in particular its Adult Swim programming that has morphed from a late-night block for young adults and insomniacs into prime-time animated adult-appropriate programming, is getting plenty of attention from Madison Avenue now, and a great spot cable buy in this market. MySpace, left for dead, still resonates with this demographic with its focus on music. Who knew, Country Music Television (CMT) has such a strong 18-24 following in Seattle, as well as local country radio KKWF-FM? How about the Sunday print edition of the New York Times, the Oxygen network or Homes & Land magazine? FX has been rocking this crowd with such winning entries as “American Horror Story,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Archer,” “Justified” and “The League.” These are just the Top 20 media; there are nearly 40 media vehicles in this market that ring true with this demographic and offer efficiencies that even the small-budgeted can afford.

Need help navigating media for a Seattle target audience? Drop me a note and I’ll take a look at it, no strings attached. Simply email seattlemediamaven@seattletimes.com or describe your audience in the comments below.

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