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5 Ways To Engage Millennials With Your Video Ads

At this year’s Youth Marketing Summit in London, Unruly’s Dan Best ran through his top tips for engaging younger audiences with video advertising.

Getting through to millennials poses a challenge for many marketers – they can be shrewd and hard to reach. But it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact, 81% don’t mind seeing ads when they are relevant to them.

So how do you do it? Well, in case you couldn’t make it to Tuesday’s presentation, here are our 5 key takeaways on how to create effective online ads for this audience.


1. Focus on sentimentality & social good

Data from Unruly Pulse and Unruly EQ has shown us that ads that use sentimental storytelling and promote a social cause are the best performers for 18 to 34-year-olds (yes, you can be a millennial in your 30s). Just take a look at the below table showing the ads that caused the greatest emotional response among young people to see what works.



Across the board, millennials had a substantially stronger reaction to these ads than the average viewer. The content of these ads was also particularly emotive, tugging on the heartstrings of viewers in unexpected ways.

This is definitely true for #4, an ad from Thai Life Insurance, which is interesting given that the insurance industry rarely manages to engage with this demo.



2. Be authentic

One thing that millennials have in common with almost all audiences is that they lose trust in a brand when the advertising ‘feels fake’ – with 71% of 11 to 17-year-olds and 74% of 18 to 34-year-olds agreeing that authenticity is key.

This means presenting the brand in a way that’s compatible with the company’s reputation and avoiding things like shoehorning in celebrities for the sake of it. A great example of this is T-Mobile’s Super Bowl campaign starring Justin Bieber.




T-Mobile has long positioned itself as the network of choice for young people – but the inclusion of a pretty divisive public figure didn’t work out for them. In fact, the ad was least effective among younger audiences – performing 25% better for viewers aged over 35.


3. Make it work with sound-off

80% of millennials will mute a brand’s video ads, and are the demo most likely to do so (Unruly Millennial Survey). This means brands wanting to engage this audience should focus on creating ads that work in a sound-off newsfeed environment – either by avoiding dialogue altogether, or ensuring high-quality closed captioning.


4. Avoid jumping on trends

According to the Unruly Future Video Survey, younger people are much more likely to judge brands badly for trying to capitalise on new trends – with 45% saying it should only be done when it feels real and authentic to the brand.


5. Focus on a single emotion

This final point is something Unruly recommends to every brand, regardless of the target audience. Academic and industry studies have repeatedly proven the effects of emotional advertising on brand and business metrics. According to a recent Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience study, ads with above average EEG scores (emotional ads) deliver a 23% uplift in sales volume versus average ads, while the Field, IPA and Gunn Report, “Selling Creativity Short”, stated that awarded campaigns (emotional campaigns) were 10X more efficient than non-awarded campaigns.

A great example of this is last year’s Doritos Super Bowl ad, ‘Ultrasound’, which received more than 1.3m shares.

The ad caused a strong emotional reaction, making 6x more people laugh than the average US ad. This emotional response then had a major effect on key brand metrics, which were all higher than the US norm.