Ever watch an ad on YouTube and think, “I don’t get it?” It’s likely the ad was directed at a certain customer segment – like, say, millennials. Companies target their advertisements in a variety of ways to reach different types of customers, and age segmentation is one of the most common.

With ad mail still a crucial source of revenue for the U.S. Postal Service, the OIG was curious to determine the effectiveness of physical and digital ads among people of different ages. We partnered with Temple University to conduct a neuromarketing study that compared effectiveness of print ads and digital ads on consumers ranging from ages 18 to 68. Similar to our previous neuromarketing studies, we used self-reported measures, behavioral responses, and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) technology to measure the brain’s response to digital ads and print ads.

Confirming and expanding on our prior research, we found:

  • Print advertising was effective in leaving a lasting impression of ads and brands across age groups.
  • Ads designed to elicit an emotional response were more effective with younger consumers, while those that describe a product’s function, especially in print format, were relatively more effective with older adults;
    • Metaphorical ads – or symbols that reflected the brand’s “value” – were consistently effective across age groups.
  • All age groups processed digital ads more quickly than physical, which could be advantageous with limited attention or time.

So, what does this mean for companies? Our findings provide insight into how different age groups react to categories of ad designs. This is important for advertisers, because demographics, such as age, are at the core of their marketing strategies. Using that information could help companies improve their ad campaigns’ effectiveness.

In this age of digital media growth, it is important that the Postal Service understand the most effective uses of advertising mail. Taken together, our research sheds light on ways advertising mail can continue to maintain lasting relevance as a medium for marketers.

Are you ready to know your target audience better? What ways would you recommend marketers target their use of ad mail?

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