Shaking up generational stereotypes

3x more millennials are watching TV compared to YouTube.

Millennials. It seems every business, journalist and pundit is trying to figure out this up-and-coming generation. Research abounds on their attitudes and preferences for work, play, family and home. One of the most common observations is the innate fluency these 18-to-34-year-olds have with technology.

However, this influential generation isn’t as digital as you might think. In fact:

Four times more millennials watch TV compared to YouTube.1

Twice as many millennials tune in to TV compared to a TV-connected device.

Those are just two of the intriguing findings in recent advertising studies. They got us thinking about other generational stereotypes—exactly the kind of misperceptions that can derail a brand in the market.

Every generation defies expectations

Whether you’re 25, 45 or 65, no one wants to be pigeonholed into a one-size-fits-all description. That’s one of the inherent dangers of sweeping assumptions about generations.

Millennials often get a bad rap as lazy or entitled, expecting brands and employers to conform to their expectations. The media characterize Generation Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, as apathetic, cynical and disengaged − the classic rebels and slackers. Meanwhile, baby boomers are universally praised for their optimism, work ethic and cooperative spirit.

In fact, nuances exist within all age groups. Yes, millennials value diversity, inclusivity and meaningful work—but older adults also take pride in those tenets. Millennials are no more likely to job hop than employees in 1983, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

Likewise, technology adoption spans age ranges. Smart phones are just as essential for adults 55 and older as they are for millennials, with both groups showing similar patterns for frequency of usage. Older Americans also use smart watches more than any other demographic.

Three characteristics that unite generations

The takeaway for marketers? Use generational insights appropriately. Consider these similarities that can inform stronger and more effective broadcast campaigns:


More, please. 3 out of 4 consumers—regardless of age—now binge-watch their favorite television shows, viewing at least three episodes in one sitting. Younger viewers immerse themselves more frequently (typically once a week), but changing viewing habits clearly unite more than divide us.


Plugged in. 8 out of 10 households, representing nearly 98 million homes, subscribe to paid TV services such as cable or satellite. These numbers have remained steady for the past 15 years, despite dire predictions of cord cutting by younger generations. Research shows income—rather than age or generational values—is the primary driver. Streaming has grown in popularity, but most use it to complement (rather than replace) television viewing.


Social butterflies. 8 out of 10 consumers are active on social networks.  While younger consumers show slightly more activity, 73 percent of baby boomers use social media, proving this modern communication method has emerged as a mainstream force. It’s a natural complement to extend the impact of broadcast advertising.

In the end, winning campaigns will incorporate the broad outlines of any demographic and use those insights to guide your message and media. But, truly engaging, emotionally driven content will never fit inside a tightly drawn box. Don’t limit your options—and your ultimate results—with narrow, stereotypical observations.

Appeal to any age. For creative that breaks through the clutter and bridges the generational divide, turn to Marketing Architects. Contact us to discuss your next campaign.



1  comScore MediaMetrix multiplatform, May 2017