Engage with the Future: Ad Music for Digital Natives
February 12, 2016

It’s a joke now: the teenager staring at their phone during dinner. At school. At everywhere. “Adults” accuse them of being tuned out, clueless to the value of working hard and respecting elders. They want everything ‘free’ (music, TV, movies) and have a mammoth sense of entitlement.

But what if modern teens aren’t that simple? We are talking about the next generation in our species. And they are hardly clueless.

Referred by some as “digital natives”, today’s tweens, teens and twentysomethings grew up with iPads, cell phones, and high-speed WiFi. And they actually are super motivated to engage on every level they can. Politically, socially, romantically, internationally — they world is literally their oyster.

Their thirst to engage includes, of course, their music and media consumption.

Just one hitch: they despise ads.

Successful communication among digital natives is egalitarian and engaged — they hate being talked at, rather than talked to/with. Which is exactly what traditional ads do. They talk at the viewer. Placated them. Scream at them.

Nothing turns a digital native off faster. Literally.

In a fascinating teen-to-teen survey by Business Insider, Netflix was the overwhelming favorite for watching TV and movies (over Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, cable, traditional broadcast, etc.). It has nothing to do with the user interface, or the content, or the ‘cool’ factor. It’s because there’s no ads.

The result is a devoted, deep well of young users who can watch what they want when they want. With no ads.

To quote one surveyed 16-year-old, “Netflix is life.”

Same thing is happening with music consumption. Spotify is the top platform in the same survey. It’s also the easiest among music streaming services to share songs, see what friends are listening to, create playlists, and engage with music artists (well, besides Taylor Swift).

This is the second key to accessing digital natives: engagement. They want to feel they are collaborators, not subversive consumers that are supposed to just be happy with what their given.

Discovering the latest cool thing has always been a teen thing. But with digitally native teens, they want to exchange and interact with their peers and “goals” (esteemed celebrities), rather than have a radio station play only what the DJs deem worthy.

So what to do if the next generation feels a) ads are to be avoided at all costs, and b) entertainment is most interesting when its participatory?

A great indicator is the Esurance sweepstakes campaign introduced during Super Bowl 50. The insurance company didn’t even buy air time during the big game — they used much cheaper pre-game airtime to stump their #esurancesweepstakes. Yet when the final scores were tallied, Esurance’s contest hashtag was the top branded hashtag of the night (9,000 tweets/minutes). By a landslide.

Add to the mix new music video creation apps climbing the iTunes charts like and Flipagram (tucking direct licensing deals into their wallets with Sony, UMG & Warner Music). As of this winter, even 5-year-olds with selfie sticks became their own real-time video producers, albeit of snowboarding down the bunny hill to G-Eazy.

Sweet dreams, MTV.

What’s next for advertising? For starters, agencies’ ad pitches must focus on audience interaction. The era of blaring brand attributes during forced commercial breaks is over.

Games, contests, celebrity access, app user content creation, custom product designs, and unique product-purchase incentives are top ways to attract brand attention with modern audiences.

For ad music creators, the key will be to also demand real-time data collection from ICT (Information & Communications Technology) platforms of when ads are playing, for how long, and demographics on the audience-engagement success rates per ad/tune (click thrus, etc.).

Real-time data collection technology is available — how else do you think YouTube bills its advertisers via ContentID? Which is why the need to push for a new age in data reporting is now. (More to come in our next blog post, “Data Collection 2.0”.)

So what brand advertising innovations do you see as breaking the mold and engaging digital natives as never before? Where do you see music (and revenue therefrom) entering into the equation?

Leave a Reply


  1. Hi Ella,

    Interesting article. One thing, What does ICT stand for? You used that acronym a few times in your article.



    1. Hi Fritz! ICT = information and communications technology
      (good question: added definition to the article, as well. cheers!)

  2. It’s a way to stand out among the sea of 30-second spots and deliver entertainment value to consumers.