Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Too darned smart

Published in Nov-Dec 2016
Asim Naqvi, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Pakistan, on how to advertise to Millennials.
Illustration by Creative Unit
Illustration by Creative Unit

In my view the idea of ‘advertising to’ Millennials is absolutely the wrong way to look at it. What is needed is not to advertise, but to involve, motivate and invite them. Advertising to Millennials sounds pejorative – as if we have to run after them with all sorts of temptations in order to keep them interested in our brands, rather than appreciating their differences.

Although there are many assumptions about Millennials, it is largely agreed that this generation is purpose-driven, inventive, problem solving, experimental, individualist, connected, business-minded and bold, and to make a positive impact, marketers have to understand their behaviours, inspirations, attitudes and desires.

Millennials have to be targeted according to their social groups and not through campaigns based on life stages. They will most probably follow influencers whose identity is aligned with theirs in terms of the specifics of life. They place their trust in their friends, classmates, colleagues and people they respect. They are sceptical of brands and their hard-sell pitch and this means that brands will have to focus on high quality programmes that speak to those influencers who can make the connect between the brand and the Millennials.

For them, relationships come first and everything else comes second. So the most important thing is for brands to build a relationship and not just sell. They want brands to spend time with them before even thinking about making a purchasing decision. They are far more receptive to the story of a brand if it is a real authentic story. The age of flawless is dead, be it a super-human leader or a super fantasy-driven brand communication. Only the real story, with believable promises and commitments, will capture their attention. They will be most forgiving if they trust your brand, but this can only happen if you have been transparent in your communication – which can also be a great connecting point.


Millennials look for information before making a purchase and they look for that information from trusted sources – which are not the marketing and manufacturing companies but their friends or online social connections.


Brands need to break out of their hard-sell mindset if they want to invite Millennials to give them a try. It is basically all about ‘why you sell’ and not about ‘what you sell’.

It is almost a cliché to say that Millennials were born in the era of the internet and they therefore love social media, yet it is so true. So, brands have to get social; Millennials are most comfortable when they engage with social media and they connect and communicate with their social groups much more than they would with any advertising campaign.

Millennials look for information before making a purchase and they look for that information from trusted sources – which are not the marketing and manufacturing companies but their friends or online social connections. They will ask their friends or go to their social networks to see what people think about a brand before making a decision and this is the reason why Millenials form the largest representation on any social network you can think of – Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat. They use this collective filter as their most trusted advisor when making decisions.

Keep it short, keep it straight – KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is what they ask of the advertising campaigns. When communicating with them, it is best to get to the point immediately and be authentic, actionable, direct and practical. Tell them their story and not yours. Keep them engaged and interested in the way you do it and the best way to achieve this is to tell stories about the people that surround your brand instead of stories about the brand itself. Create experiences for them through interactive media (events, engagement programmes, etc.) where they can experience the brand in action. It is always best to find common ground between the brand and them. Unique ideas that fall into that common ground will immediately click with them. And this common ground can become a shared space where the brand and the Millennial can enjoy the brand experience.


The best marketing tool for Millennials are Millennials themselves, so use them. They will promote, recommend and sell your brand if you provide them with a proper platform, direction, meaning and a valid reason.


The heart of a Millennial is a rare organ and the most difficult to win over. To get them to love your brand, your brand needs to stand for something and should have values. They value social responsibility much more than any other generation and brands need to go beyond their own bottom-line concerns and ensure they reflect something Millennials will find meaningful.

Advertising campaigns that add value are the ones most valued by Millennials. We need to create advertising that is for them rather than campaigns which market to them. The idea needs to translate into something that is valuable in their lives, provides utility or information, is entertaining, gives an experience, creates memories or leaves a positive impact. They like to feel that the brand content was created with their interests (not their wallet) in mind, and if they do, they are more likely to purchase the brand.

Millennials are actively involved in the social, economic and political issues of the day and if your brand can demonstrate that it is tuned in to these important issues and is bold enough to adopt a stance over them, they will be more likely to respect or take interest in you.

Millennials are connected to the world, the happenings, the trends, the news 24x7, which is why they have a point of view on everything and they want to have their say. They want to play a role in helping companies develop new products and services. In the era of the Millennials, it is not as simple as it once was, when products were introduced in the market and consumers were expected to buy them without much interaction or engagement or deep convincing. Millennials want to be involved with how products are developed, produced and marketed, so if you want to make your brands popular with them, it is essential to invite them to be part of the product development process.

The best marketing tool for Millennials are Millennials themselves, so use them. They will promote, recommend and sell your brand if you provide them with a proper platform, direction, meaning and a valid reason. They define themselves by the brands they use and most importantly, they love to talk about those brands. If you are successful in making them fall in love with your brand, then most of your job is done; they will tell the world about your brand through social media and one-on-one conversations. They will become the best and the most active preachers of your brands.

Remember, not all Millennials are created equal, therefore making general appeals to them may not work as well as targeted campaigns focused on their interests, activities and values. Simply put, connection is what Millennials want. They want to discover and explore brands on their own terms, in their own space and in their own way. They don’t want to be marketed or advertised to; they are far too smart.

Until now, the only brands which have been successful in approaching Millennials have been those which complement their mindset, habits, passions and lifestyles. Innovations and interactive creative ideas will help brands keep Millennial audiences engaged.

Asim Naqvi is CEO, Ogilvy & Mather, Pakistan. asim.naqvi@ogilvy.com

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