A generation of stages: TVNZ breaks the down Millennial audience

Think about the last creative brief you wrote or received. Who was the target audience?


When TVNZ stopped to consider the audiences it gets briefed to find, “millennials” was a common request and it’s not surprising considering the category is commonly used to group together young adults.

But now think – what were you doing at 22 years of age? What were you doing at 39? Or, what will you be doing at 39?

When TVNZ’s been presenting its latest Forecast study, ‘Millennials: Shattering the illusion’, many in the audience are surprised to hear the term “Millennial” covers all those 22 to 39 years of age.

“As we were presenting it to agency people, a lot were like ‘ooh’,” Kathryn Mitchell, TVNZ’s head of trade marketing, says.

“If you think about the generic view of millennials, people say ‘they’re all really young, they don’t have children, they are all on social media, they’re all obsessed with themselves and going to save the world and they’re not a very nice generation’.”

Take a look at TVNZ’s study, and it soon becomes clear these ideas don’t fit all those aged 22 to 39. While aspects of a generation are influenced by their environment, and values may be established early on, it’s our life stages that drive how we behave.

“So how can you possibly serve one marketing message that would reach all of them?,” Mitchell asks.

She admits ads have improved hugely over the past few years, but says there are still some that are clearly “ticking a box” because they’re full of tokenism.

“Audiences see right through it.”

On this, the study’s hypothesis was: “Attitudes towards brands and their consumption are driven more by an individual’s values and life stage than any age-based cohort they belong to.”

It’s worth noting ‘Millennials: Shattering the illusion’ extended to 18-year-olds as Mitchell explains it wanted to catch the top of the centennial group to see if there were any differences.

Living it up or living at home?

So what are those different life stages of Millennials?

TVNZ identified four life stages within the Millennial generation, including ‘living at home’, ‘living independently’, ‘living as a couple’, and ‘living with children’.

‘Living at home’ made up 21 percent of Millennials. Broken down, this is is 67 percent 18- to 24-year-olds and 33 percent 25- to 39-year-olds.

Those ‘living independently’ make up 25 percent of Millennials. Breaking that down further, 63 percent live with others but without a partner, and 37 percent are single and living alone.

Over half of them – 58 percent – are 25 to 39 years old while 42 percent are 18 to 24 years old.

The next category, ‘living as a couple’, makes up 24 percent of Millennials. Breaking that down, 71 percent live with their partner only, while 29 percent live with a partner and others. The majority – 44 percent – are aged between 30 to 39, while 29 percent are 25 to 39 yeard old and 27 percent are 18 to 24 years old.

‘Living with children’ is the biggest group in the millennial category, as 30 percent of millennials have children. Of those ‘living with children’, 91 percent are with a partner and children and nine percent are with children and no partner.

Again, the majority – 71 percent – are 30 to 39, while 19 percent are 25 to 30 and 10 percent are 18 to 24.

Looking across the snapshot of the different living arrangements, it’s clear Millennials are all at different stages and that’s before the research gets into their values, finances, and media viewing.

Where’s the spending power?

Just like the different living arrangements are spread across all ages, there are various financial pressures across 18- to 39-year-olds.

Unsurprisingly, those ‘living at home’ are focused on themselves when it comes to their spending, but they have limited spending power due to a lower income on average.

Those ‘living independently’ also have some constraints around their spending, and on top of this, have bills to pay. Their purchases are carefully considered.

When it comes to ‘living as a couple’, purchases are also carefully considered as saving is important alongside the costs that come with building a home.

And for those ‘living with children’, there are children to provide for and periods of reduced income as one parent will not be in paid work.

Where are their eyes?

Similarly, media consumption varies across those who fall into the Millennial category.

Despite some assumptions that they are always on social media, the study found they aren’t all glued to their devices.

When looking at those ‘living as a couple’ and those ‘living with children’, Facebook usage drops suddenly.

The study found 52 percent of those ‘living as a couple’ have stopped or cut down on Facebook use, due to too much ‘click-bait’, a lack of trust around personal data use and little interest in the topics served to them.

Meanwhile, 44 percent of those ‘living with children’ have stopped or cut-down on Facebook, mainly because they feel like they are missing out on their real life.

“They wanted to be in tune with their children and not be missing out or tied to a phone,” Mitchell says.

And it’s not just Facebook that they aren’t clicking into with, with 40 percent those ‘living with children’ never using Instagram, 42 percent never using Snapchat and 68 percent never using Twitter.

And with ‘living with children’ being the biggest group within millennials – at 30 percent – Mitchell asks the question: Why is so much advertising budget being funnelled into Instagram?

Another myth the study busted about millennial media use was around their TV consumption.

Millennials may have more viewing options than any generation before, but that hasn’t made the TV redundant.

“They are watching TV,” Mitchell says. “Just how they are watching TV is quite different.”

The study found that no matter the life stage, TV provides everyday entertainment for a large proportion of people.

Of those ‘living at home’, 47 percent watch TV every day, while 40 percent of those ‘living independently’ watch it every day.

It increases slightly in the latter two stages, with 53 percent of those ‘living as a couple’ watching TV every day and 52 percent of those ‘living with children’.

Mitchell says there’s a social experience with TV consumption and it’s only later in the evening will people retire to their rooms to watch programmes and movies independently though SVODs and OnDemand services.

What are they buying?

Following media use, the study looked at the brands that have sticking power and are the most admired. Again, there are differences across the different Millennial life stages.

Admired brands relate to the changing priorities at life stage and Nike and Adidas were found to be the only two admired across all life stages – cutting across gender, age, culture and values.

Brands resonating with those ‘living at home’ are in the fashion and toiletries category, while those ‘living independently’ are aligned to brands that are bold, different, affordable and local.

Those ‘living as a couple’ are aligned to honest and transparent brands and it’s brands that provide help to parents, are affordable, honest and simple that resonate with those ‘living with children’.

Despite these differences, the study found that across all groups, trust was an important aspect for admired brands. Similarly, all groups ranked quality of performance as the most important factor about the brands they like or admire.

A new bullseye?

With ‘Millennials: Shattering the illusion’ breaking down the group into a number of different life stages, Mitchell returns to hear earlier question—how can you possibly serve one marketing message that would reach all of them?—to say “you can’t”.

Instead, her suggestion is to target behaviours rather than ages.

“A 24-year-old embarking on a career overseas is likely to have a very different outlook to a 24-year-old living with two small children. Likewise, the behaviour of a 38-year-old moving back home and returning to study after a marriage break up will most likely be different to a 38-year-old with large disposable income living with a partner and kids.”

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