Marketing to Teens — Ur Doin It Wrong

Teens in America have serious purchasing power. Most keep their money from babysitting or after school jobs, few contribute to their household economy, and many receive allowances or payments for chores throughout their teen years.

They also have a lot of influence over household buying decisions. Parents not only listen to kids’ preferences in order the get the products their children like, but also because they believe their teens are more in tune with modern trends than they are.

Unlike adults, who remember online ads twice as well as TV ads, teens find TV ads more memorable than online ads. They are less likely to leave the room intentionally to avoid ads. They talk about them with their friends, and an astonishing 37% of teens say they like watching TV ads.

Get this: 46% say they’ve purchased a product because they saw it in a TV ad. 45% said online ads “get on [their] nerves.” In short, while most consumers hate TV ads and are more accepting of online ads, teens like TV ads. (All these figures come from a study by Research Now.)

Some of us are thinking that this explains a lot about TV ads.

In fact, it may say something about the way these digital natives use the internet. The number one reason teens go on line is to “look up things I don’t know,” followed by checking on events, window shopping, and playing games. Few actually shop online (no credit cards, perhaps) and their computer use is fairly active and focused. In contrast, TV is a passive undertaking for teens. They’re willing to watch what’s on and don’t feel that they are in control of the content on TV. This feeling of control is a primary reason that many teens report that they prefer the web to watching TV.

Still, though teens may say that they prefer the internet, they still spend a lot of time in front of the TV — even while texting or surfing the web. The TV is frequently on while teens study or use other digital devices. Advertisers who make an effort to entertain teens can have their attention — and may be better able to get it when their teenage audience feels less in control.

As for online marketing to teens — it certainly makes sense. Teens now spend more time online that they do watching TV. But advertising may be less effective than providing information and good content for window shopping.

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