To say that digital ‘is the future’ is not only cliché, but it’s also inaccurate. Digital is now – and it’s changing faster than ever before.
For those of us who work in media and have to come up with annual strategies, we all know that whatever we plan, it is outdated within a few months. This is due not only to client changes but ever-evolving technology and services. There’s no better example of this than big players like Facebook or Google, who in order to stay ahead of the curve, are constantly enhancing and changing their platforms via new algorithms. But even giants such as these are facing new challenges in order to stay relevant. Why? Millennials and Gen Z!
Those born between early 1980 and early 2000 (myself included) don’t function like previous generations, and they are here to change the world. Let’s go over some facts: First, if you think Facebook is still cool, you’re wrong. Yes, millennials might have an account, but what they really love is platforms such as Whatsapp and Snapchat. Their parents are now on Facebook, their grandparents are even on Facebook, so they have moved on to the next cool thing where they can be themselves without bumping up against older generations. Surprisingly enough, this is nothing new… once the majority embraces a trend, the innovators and early adopters have already moved on. And… it seems, Millenials are not that cool, hello Gen Z and TikTok.
This reality leads to a paradox, the world is changing faster than ever before, however, the decision-makers remain static. One example of this is TV, which still gets the big bucks despite the eyeballs not being there anymore… or at least not the attention of the new generations. The days of the executive decision-maker watching TV at night are gone. Of course, TV isn’t dead, it won’t die, it is just adapting. Radio didn’t kill newspapers just like TV didn’t kill radio, they all found their own space in the evolving media landscape.
With this reality, it’s important to keep in mind that once a brand owns a category, it usually can’t win in another. For example, Facebook knows that the older generations have adapted it as a platform and don’t want to be left behind with the millennial generation, so the brand bought Whatsapp, Instagram, and Oculus – even attempting to secure Snapchat. Google bought YouTube, and Blockbuster succumbed to the digital days with Netflix quickly emerging to take its spot.
And as much as there is being said about the short attention span of this generation, if you give them good content, they will watch it. Take a look at the “new” wave of Podcasts, usually long-form of conversations, one of the biggest, if not the biggest in the world, The Joe Rogan Experience, very frequently reaches 2 to 3 hours of conversations per episode.
Another example of all of these changes is the rise of the vertical video, the truly mobile video format. We don’t have the top and bottom black bars. Until now, we were just adapting the old formats to the new device… and again, history has proved that adapting the old way to the new reality just won’t work. It takes time and risk to try out new approaches, but the return is fruitful. The first TV ads were just a voice over an image, merging the two realities we were used to: print and radio. In a larger context the importance of adaption holds true, while Europe was relying on old WWI tactics, Nazi Germany comes with a new approach, the Blitzkrieg, which allowed them to conquer half of Europe with ease. The impenetrable French Maginot Line wasn’t so impenetrable after all.
To be defined as a millennial might be a question of age, but anyone can act like them, embrace change, move fast, make mistakes, learn and adapt quickly. If we continue to wait for benchmarks before acting, it’s not groundbreaking, it’s just being a follower.