Want to engage with ‘millenials’? It’s all about lifestage, not age. So, put those pre-conceptions to one side and read on…

I read a really interesting article this week about Channel 4’s successes with 16-24-year olds that made me realise there’s still a lot of myths about what this age group are really like. The full article is below, but in a nutshell it states that Channel 4 are looking to maintain their successes with the youth market and that there’s a lot more to engaging this age group than shows like Love Island. There’s no doubt Love Island has been a huge hit with this audience (and many other age groups too) but let’s not assume this is a secret recipe for success. Channel 4 states that shows like the Great British Bake Off are also a particular hit with 16-24s, (given it accounts for six of the top 10 shows among young audiences this year so far).


This has prompted me to share some findings from studies we have conducted for Thinkbox and ITV in the last couple of years on young people and specifically their media habits, although there are a lot of wider learning that can be taken from it for other sectors too. 

We’re bombarded with the word ‘millennials’ – but, in my opinion this is a meaningless term for a diverse bunch. 

Today’s 20 year old could be in education and living at home with mum or dad or they could be married and working full-time with a kid or two. It’s fair to say that 14-24s are more influenced by age, education and lifestyle than any other group of people – and that this has an inevitable effect on the way they consume media and live their lives overall.

Whenever Platypus are asked to research this age group we focus on unpicking the impact that life-stage has on their behaviour, so we can start to understand what makes this group unique. 

Our starting point is to ensure we’re inclusive in our sample design as well as devising compelling methodologies to throw light on the lives of young people. Through a blend of qualitative techniques, including video ethnography, online communities and depth interviews, we have discovered the factors that set this group apart and have made AV content an ingrained part of their lives and development. 

We identified three interlinking aspects which have a significant influence on how younger people consume video, and the content choices they seek:

‘Time & Space’; Who they live with and the amount of time they have on their hands dictates their choices. The ‘boredom factor’ varies with employment status. More young people are living with parents for longer or even in shared houses which changes their behaviour (e.g. shared social viewing vs secondary device viewing for personal choice) and young people have greater restrictions on their freedom which means ‘staying in’ is a social occasion.

‘Identity’; It comes as no surprise that identity creation is fundamental for this age group and a strong subconscious driver of behaviour, particularly when it comes to video, for this age group. For the 14-16s, it’s about determining who they are and what they want to become. As the years progress, the focus shifts to asserting independence, broadening horizons and experiencing new things. The other element that sets this lot apart from other age groups is their desire to learn. This isn’t just about pursuing interests, but about extending knowledge for a practical purpose; be that learning to cook, play the guitar or cracking the latest game (depending on the life-stage and age). This explains why Bake Off and One Born Every Minute are firm favourites for this age group.

‘Social Maintenance’. There are two types;

o  Physical social maintenance

The need to share time and space with other people is just part of being human. This is hugely important for young people. For the 14-16s living in the parental home, TV- particularly soaps, provides one of the few easy points of commonality with their parents and a solid reason to come together. In shared households, it can unite the individual members whom may otherwise lead quite separate lives.

o  Virtual social maintenance This is a newer phenomenon that has been turbo-charged by the rise of social media and sets this generation apart from those that have gone before. It helps explain why younger people claim to feel so short of time despite being so time rich. Facebook is increasingly being used as a way of filtering short-form content on YouTube and sharing clips amongst like-minded friends. Conversely, sharing short form content and the latest YouTubers on Facebook can provide a level of kudos and currency amongst friends. 

So you see there’s no one rule fits all for appealing to ‘Millennials’ because there is no such thing as a typical Millennial. However, by focussing on ‘lifestage not age’ as the greatest predictor of their needs then we can have a much better chance of successfully engaging with young people.

For more details on the study click the link below or to find out more about understanding and connecting with young people contact jo.cliff@platypusresearch.com or karen.chaudhari@platypusresearch.com


Thanks for reading!Let’s work together