Millennials are some sort of weird holy grail/boogeyman to marketers. They are depicted as the great untapped audience that is engaged, intelligent, and (potentially) very loyal to brands. Or they are fickle, easily bored, obtuse, and hostile to any kind of advertising. It all depends on who you ask.
But Michael Brenner at Entrepreneur.com seems to have gained some insight. His company NewsCred interviewed 500 Millenials on their feelings and attitudes towards advertising and marketing. The results may seem counterintuitive or unhelpful, but that's only a superficial assessment. As Brenner's title puts it, "Millennials Don't Want Ads. They Want Stories."
Brenner states it plainly, the "old logic of marketing was that the more advertisements you throw at the younger generations, the earlier you can get them hooked on your brand." This is what lead to an era of children and young people being absolutely saturated with advertising, and all the ethical quandaries that came with it. We shouldn't be surprised then, that Millennials are wary of that kind of old school advertisement.
You have to be smarter to reach Millennials. As Brenner's survey found, to the tune of 64% of respondents, Millennials are much more receptive to advertising tailored to their own interests. This may seem selfish until you realize Millennials grew up in an individualized world, where social media, news feeds, consumption of culture, and much more, was designed around the user's specific decisions and choices. It shouldn't be surprising that such a group would be more interested in advertising that works the same way.
Brenner's conclusion, which is backed up by his survey, is that content marketing is the solution. As he found, half of Millennials said they'd share content if it was content they actually cared about. (And it's important to note that one-third said they were displeased with content that was too "sales-y".)
They want authentic relationships, in other words. So the real question becomes not how to make better content (get the right creatives and you can do that) but how to scale up that individualization to a larger scale. After all, there are almost 75 million Millennials. And if you don't reach them, someone else will.