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How to Advertise to the Millennial Who Hates Advertising

'The new authority is authenticity,' Maker Studios exec says

CCO Erin McPherson says the term "native content" will disappear. Photo: Getty Images

Maker Studios' chief content officer Erin McPherson has a few words of advice for marketers trying to reach millennials: You're not going to get them with traditional ads.

"This generation doesn't dislike brands," McPherson said at the Interactive Advertising Bureau Annual Leadership Meeting in Phoenix on Monday. "What they don't like is advertising."

According to McPherson, Maker Studios is now the largest distributor of short-form video content in the world. It gets 11 billion monthly views, with 70 percent of its audience overseas. Sixty percent of viewers are between ages 13 and 34.

What the multi-channel network has learned is that viewers are watching less TV, and its audience is moving increasingly to mobile devices, with 50 percent watching on the smaller screen. And viewers are demanding shorter clips. Even Netflix has noticed that 87 percent of its viewing sessions on mobile devices were under 10 minutes.

To reach millennials, brands need to trust content creators. McPherson explained that because these online video creatives pay special attention to their audiences and refuse to do anything that would ruin those relationships, their native content resonates. Their methods of working with brands might seem risky—like poking fun at them through "reverential teasing"—but they can actually increase brand loyalty.

For example, Bad Lip Reading, a YouTube series that guesses what celebrities and athletes are saying based on how their mouths move, has poked fun at the NFL several times. This year's installment, NFL 2015, has been viewed more than 19.8 million times.

Instead of getting angry over rights usage, the NFL and McDonald's actually used the concept in a recent joint advertising campaign.

"The new authority is authenticity," McPherson noted.

Because native content tends to be trustworthy, McPherson said, millennials judge it on its merits rather than casting it aside as an ad.

"I think native content will give way to just content," she said. "I think we'll retire that term and just have content."

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