Create entertaining, sexy ads to lure millennials...or let them do it for you

The truth is, this coveted cohort is open to advertising--if they're getting something back for it, says 9GAG's chief operating officer.

Just because you’ve grabbed millennial eyes doesn’t mean you’ve captured their minds.

Ask any agency, brand or advertiser. They’ll tell you millennials are the toughest demographic to reach. Millennials are everywhere: on multiple devices, social platforms and digital channels. They are tech-savvy and are increasingly hostile to traditional advertising. According to eMarketer, most millennials have installed ad blockers. Research from Nielsen also shows they had the lowest program engagement and ad memorability scores compared to other generations.

This can lead marketers to the erroneous assumption that millennials simply reject advertising out of hand and refuse to engage with it. The truth is, this coveted cohort is open to advertising—if they’re getting something back for it (three-quarters of millennials in the Nielsen study said ads don’t bother them if they receive free content in return). That certainly doesn’t mean they’ll care about any ad they see. Marketers need to understand what captures the increasingly fractured millennial attention span to have any impact.

Millennials expect the same entertainment value from ads as they do from any other type of content. And what would that be? 

  • High entertainment value, like high production value Hollywood movies/TV shows and cartoons 
  • Sex appeal, including NSFW content, pretty faces and dating tips
  • Real-time tie-ins to current events, including big or small events like the eclipse, concerts and festivals
  • Star power, including celebrities, actors, models, singers and athletes 
  • Random microtrends, including consumer-generated content in the form of videos, DIY and memes.

For example, "Game of Thrones" was our most popular content in August, before being taken over by the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, which only stuck around for three days. Similarly, "Rick and Morty" was in our top three most popular topics before being taken over by random new memes like "Disloyal Man" and "Country Beams."

Millennials are also apt to consume the very content they produce, expressing their feelings and showing their sense of humor with images, GIFs and videos that go viral at higher rates than professionally created content. Millennials don’t look at content just because it’s in front of them. They seek out the content they want to digest. There’s no middle ground; you are either in or you’re out.

That means, you can either ensure your content is as good as "Game of Thrones," is sexy like actress Sophie Turner or the like, plays upon sex appeal, or references another big event like a solar eclipse or the Mayweather fight. Or commission a relevant celebrity to do the job. If you can’t offer that content to millennials, then get it from them. Let go of your pride and let them tell the brand story for you.

Whatever it is and whomever it comes from, the bottom line is, your content better be compelling, and it better be easy to find. It doesn’t matter to millennials if the line between content and advertising is blurred—just make it interesting and you’ll have a winning formula.

Lilian Leong is Chief Operating Officer at 9GAG.

Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free