While the Millennials said they are open to exploring new brands while still gravitating toward legacy ones, the older panelists noted they remain more loyal to the brands they know. Gen Xer Roth noted when she recently was shopping for eyeglasses, her teenager suggested online retailer Warby Parker. “And then I had to do research, because I don't know about Warby Parker,” Roth said, to laughter. “It’s not something I grew up with.”
Added Baby Boomer Cano: “As you get older, your world in a certain way narrows.” Fellow Boomer Brown noted that faced with unfamiliar choices, she will choose the well-known legacy brand, while Gillmore said Millennials will go back to legacy brands if the new ones fail. She told a story about a new shampoo that gave her an allergic reaction, “and I was like, ‘I'm gonna go back to TRESemme because that’s what my mother used.’”
Targeted advertising also drew conflicting responses from the panelists. “It’s become more intrusive and more effective,” Cano said. But consumers are also able to filter it out, he said. “It’s just there’s more of it, and it’s coming out to you faster,” he said, acknowledging, “It’s business.”
It’s a love-hate relationship, Sams added. When getting older, time gains relevance, said the 75-year-old: “Somebody that wastes my time showing me something that I don’t need or I don’t want, I don’t like. And that’s becoming increasingly important.”
Gen Xer Roth noted she’s more likely to choose targeted ads that speak to her interests than open targeted emails. “I will delete 50 e-mails a day,” she said, “but if I see a pop-up ad, if I see an ad scrolling Facebook or an add scrolling Google or whatnot, it has to be far more targeted to me.”
On the flip side, 25-year-old Brown noted she does open targeted emails—if they come from sources she has opted into, such as Sephora Insider or Adidas Creator Club—but is generally bothered by targeted ads.
Targeting also fails if it’s too closely tied to demographics tropes, panelists said. “Demographics, as invasive as it can be, sometimes it’s simply not targeted specifically enough,” said Roth, who joked about getting “Silver Singles” and AARP ads. “I really don’t like CrossFit, and, apparently, everybody thinks that 50-year-olds do.”
On the other hand, Millennial Brown noted how she likes 1920s films and Cary Grant movies when “most people my age would say, ‘Cary who?’” Generalizations are not always useful, she said: “You can paint with a broad brush, but then get a smaller brush and keep getting smaller.”
Ideas on the relationship between targeting and privacy were sharply divided by age group. While the Millennials were more accepting of data sharing, the older panelists were concerned about what Cano called “the Big Brother aspect.” Even the idea of exchanging data for benefits is lopsided in favor of the advertiser, he argued.
“I guess it sounds really naïve, but I think it feels like, to participate in the world right now, you have to give up some part of your privacy to do so,” Gillmore said. “I just assume that everyone is listening all the time,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gen Xer Roth noted that tracking “feels very intrusive” and “it’s kind of creepy sometimes,” and Boomer Cano said she keeps her online footprint intentionally as small as possible: “I really do just the minimum,” she said.
Boomer Sams agreed that consumers must give something to get something, but noted “there’s a huge opening that is developing right now” for companies that figure out how to protect data privacy and make it a priority.
Enforcing privacy and data protection needs to be a concerted effort to protect the media ecosystem, Sams said. “There is a creeping loss of trust,” he said, adding companies have a social responsibility to protect data.