The age of big billboards telling you what to do, buy, drink and think is over. New technology has brought with it new ways of thinking and the need for brands to communicate in a different way. Aalia Walker, marketing director at Smack, talks us through what you need to remember when creating a campaign.

Forget the old rules 

The old adages, like “sex sells” and “any publicity is good publicity”, are becoming increasingly irrelevant when marketing to millennials. This is an age where one false move can lead to a twitterstorm that will keep the social media team firefighting round the clock, as recently discovered by brands such as Protein World with their ‘beach body ready’ campaign and Gourmet Burger Kitchen and their recent (burger) bun fight with vegetarians and their supporters. Nuanced campaigns are the order of the day.

Don't talk, listen

Millennials don’t want to be the passive recipients of marketing messages - they want it to be a two-way street where they get a little something out of the interaction too. Imagine that advertising space is a house party. Old-advertising is the Hooray Henry loudly telling an anecdote about his gap year. He’s loud, he’s brash. You’ll remember him, but maybe not for good reasons.

Good advertising has more in common with the enigmatic guy stood in the kitchen, showing someone a great new app he’s found or demonstrating how to make some new cocktail using stuff you find at the back of the kitchen cupboard. It’s not about demanding attention - it’s about piquing interest and making people want to find out more for themselves.

Get them hooked

Because of the stimulus-saturated world we live in, Generation Y’s attention span is lower than that of previous generations, so whatever you say needs to get their attention quickly. Getting in front of them isn’t the hard part, the difficulty is in making sure they don’t bounce off your website because a Snapchat notification popped up on their mobile. And the best way to keep their attention - truism alert - is to be interesting.

Take, for example, our recent campaign for fashion retailer Ted Baker. While its peers favour glossy double page spreads and towering Billboard campaigns, Ted Baker has been ahead of its time in favouring the understated approach. Rather than talk about itself, it prefers to get people talking and all without the use of traditional advertising.

Photo: garryknight on Flickr

For the third year running, we worked with them on their Valentine’s Day microsite campaign. Using psychedelic graphics and bespoke illustrations, we created a microsite game in Ted’s signature quirky style. The mechanism was simple - you “fished” for a soulmate. If you hooked a character, you could enter a prize draw for a Ted Baker shopping spree. If you didn’t, you could share on social media for more ‘lives’ or simply come back and have another go.

The campaign quickly proved a catch, hooking more than 10,000 users in its first 24 hours. It was designed to capture attention, which it proved with the holy grail of a bounce rate below 20%. And although the campaign was not sales-led, as well as fulfilling the key KPIs of data capture and engagement it also drove users to the Ted Baker site too, a number of which Ted Baker confirms went on to make purchases.

Ride the waves

Too often advertisers try to set the agenda. It’s far smarter - and cost effective - to let the existing agenda work for you. You don’t have to start the conversation, as brands like Ted Baker are proving that joining the conversation around big events such as Valentine's, with something novel and engaging can deliver interest and attention – the new marketing currencies.