Reaching the Echo Boomers

There’s a new catchword making the rounds of the advertising industry. It’s capturing the attention of consumer marketers — especially those who deal in online.

“Echo boomers” (sometimes referred to as Generation Y) are, in a nutshell, the offspring (or “echo”) of the baby boomers advertisers once so fervently pursued. They range in age from preteen to mid-20s and currently make up nearly a third of the U.S. population. They’re called the most diverse and socially tolerant generation yet. They’re also considered one of the most educated and media savvy. Immersed in technology their entire lives, they spend more time online than watching TV.

According to a recent “60 Minutes” report, they cumulatively spend about $170 billion per year.

Naturally, marketers representing products that might appeal to this audience are doing everything they can to get their share of those billions. It isn’t as easy as one might think. Studies show echo boomers are increasingly skeptical of “packaged” ad messages. Instead, they take their cues from celebrities and their peers.

In an effort to penetrate the inner circle and elevate their brands and products to “it” status, marketers have little choice but to reevaluate their advertising and marketing techniques. Some hope event marketing will be their ticket to success. Others, quite logically, are going online.

Knowing where to advertise once they get there, however, is a constant challenge. What types of sites do these consumers frequent, and with which should you associate your client? These sorts of questions may plague media planners and buyers, but they’re not without answers. Here are a few tips for targeting the billion-dollar echo boomer market.

Target Gamers and Moviegoers

Gaming and movie sites are a sound choice as far as reaching echo boomers is concerned, and IGN Entertainment’s network of online properties includes some of the most popular. It was once part of the Snowball network, sure to ring a bell for buyers who targeted teens and Generation Xers in the late ’90s.

Averaging 15 to 20 million unique users per month, IGN Entertainment features such sites as IGN.com, GameSpy.com, and as of July, movie review site Rotten Tomatoes. Ninety-one percent of its audience is male, with the average age of 22. It comprises both active users and paid monthly and annual subscribers.

Also dominating the online male echo boomer market is UGO Networks, a fantasy entertainment portal. Though the site skews a bit older (18-34), Nielsen//NetRatings reports it attracts about 10 million unique U.S. visitors each month.

Get in Front of Music Lovers

Male echo boomers certainly aren’t the only ones spending time online, but the type of sites their female counterparts visit may surprise you. According to a study Jupiter Research (a Jupitermedia Corp. division) released last year, nearly 50 percent of teen girls surveyed read about musicians or bands online. They also spend 15 percent more money on music than boys, with nearly half spending over $100 on music per year.

If you can’t find placements on sites belonging to Britney Spears or Hilary Duff, consider targeting teen music-lovers with a search campaign. Hitwise recently reported that from 2003 to 2004, U.S. visits to music retail sites from search engines and directories rose 49 percent. Among the most popular search terms were brand terms, such as “bmgmusic” (50 percent); navigational terms that include a URL, such as “www.columbiahouse.com” (21 percent); and generic terms, such as “music downloads” (29 percent).

For marketers who choose to stick with portal placements, a viral marketing feature should be top of mind. Jupiter Research also found in its report “girls are more apt to share online info — including marketing info — with others online.” Researchers have named “buzz” and word-of-mouth marketing important to echo boomers.

Seek Out Community and Entertainment Sites

Community and entertainment sites aren’t hard to come by, especially if you target females. gURL.com (part of the iVillage Network) is a community site for teenage girls and young women. With its focus on interactivity, advertisers are afforded plenty of opportunities to connect with the audience via quizzes, games, and interactive features that showcase their products.

Companies such as 360 Youth also offer access to millions of echo boomers, both male and female. The network includes such sites as Alloy, CollegeXpress, and ELLEgirl Magazine. 360 Youth’s properties offer rich media, email, and interactive advertising opportunities, as well as microsite sponsorships.

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