Millennials are changing the face of advertising forever. Tech-savvy, well educated and highly influential, 18-33 year-olds are causing major headaches to businesses and brands trying reach them effectively. The relationship between advertising and the Generation Y has never been easy, and the reason is that millennials are a complex and diverse segment. On the one hand, they love creativity; they (we) are all photographers, writers, bloggers, fashion-addicts, big dreamers. We like creative stuff and we feel connected with those brands that find creative and inventive ways to tell their story. Is there a better way to do so than with a good old advert? It doesn’t take a marketer to like advertising, and it’s no accident that most fans of the AdWeek’s Facebook page are 25-34 year-olds; same for AdFreak, Ads Of The World or similar pages.

Then, of course, there’s the other side of the story. Millennials are getting increasingly less patient with the traditional “interrupting” model of advertising, they have (and enjoy) full control over media channels – thanks to the rise of streaming services – and often prefer the more personalised kind of message that only interactive marketing communications can provide; more importantly, they get bored easily, and given the ridiculous amount of stimuli we are exposed to everyday, breaking through the clutter is getting more and more difficult, even with the most creative ad ever.

The Best Remembered Ads by Millennials.

Nielsen recently released its newest Brand Effect Ranking for September. The study identifies the 10 adverts most likely to be remembered and liked by American millennials. The ranking also takes into consideration the impact that the ad had on the consumer’s purchasing decision. Translated: the study shows which are the most effective ads of the month. Eager to know which super-creative ad struck a chord with the Gen Y? That’s number 1:

Yep. Little Caesars Pizza. Not the most original commercial ever, right? Let’s forget for a second that consumers got quite angry on Twitter at finding out the real look of the pizza (apparently it doesn’t taste that good either); people remembered the ad and actually tried the product because of the ad, which is something pretty hard to achieve nowadays. Check out number 2:

The study only covers the month of September, but the results are stunning already, and question the number one cliché about advertising: the fact that ads must always be creative.

Is Creativity Dead?

Surely none of the top 10 ads in the study shows a great deal of artistry. Most of them are actually simply annoying. But the real question is: does creativity always sell?

Most remembered ads by millennials

The answer is no. The correlation between creativity and advertising is something that brands and agencies take for granted, but that often fails to generate financial results. Just think about it: on social media we see dozens of inspiring, visually stunning and highly creative ads every day. We watch them, we cry, we laugh and then share them, while agencies and their clients pop champagne bottles to celebrate the record-high levels of social media engagement. However, the reality is slightly different: after we share them, we often forget about them. I know it because I am a millennial advertising-lover myself. The expensive and breathtaking commercial fails to convince us to buy the product. Sometimes what manages to stay on top of our memory is the message itself, but not the product or the brand. The ad is so complex and overwhelming that the object fades in the background. The world is changing, and millennials want simple, engaging and in-your-face ads.

What can brands learn from that?

1. Keep the message product-centered. The consumer must know immediately what the ad is about and must feel inspired by the product, not the message.

2. Keep it short and simple. Long format ads work fine on social media, but mind that millennials have a shorter attention spam and get impatient easily.

3. Make ‘em laugh. Irony is a very powerful weapon, as shown by Snicker’s “Johnny JamBoogie” ad (ranked 2th in the list) or Old Navy’s “Court Order” one (ranked 7th). These two commercials also demonstrate that celebrity endorsers are still effective when targeting millennials.

Creativity is not dead, but the reality is that often agencies have tried to justify the lack of financial results with the shortsighted belief that advertising is a form of art and, therefore, creativity is always needed. An ad may well be original and creative, but it’s completely useless if it doesn’t help the company to achieve concrete results, such as selling more products. Advertising is about money, and if you can make more money with a stupid advert, well, screw creativity.

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Riccardo Giani is author, co-founder and editor-in-chief at They Don't Love You. Originally from Italy, he spends his free time pursuing his many interests, including (but not limited to) marketing, advertising, branding, technology and heavy metal.

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