Analysts at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley were given a run for their money this month, when 15-year-old intern Matthew Robson produced a report giving unprecedented insight into teenagers’ use of different media, revealing that young people are eager to try new media technologies and switch among them, but that their usage is primarily dictated by their very limited spending power.
Robson “texted a few friends to get ideas” when asked by the bank’s European media research desk to produce an account of his friends’ media and communications habits, and wrote up the report in a single day.
His findings made stark reading for the bank’s clientele. Teenagers see advertising as “extremely annoying and pointless”. They “cannot be bothered” to read a newspaper, never buy CDs or use yellow pages directories, and generally try to avoid paying for anything other than concerts and cinema tickets.
Most teenagers (8 out of 10 according to Robson) are fond of music, but reluctant to pay for it, preferring to download it illegally. He notes that teenagers from high-income families play music on iPods, whereas those from low-income families tend to use mobile phones.
Unsurprisingly, the internet is hugely popular, with most teenagers “heavily active” on a combination of social networking sites. Facebook is the most common, but Twitter has quickly fallen out of favour, since teenagers prefer to use their limited phone credit to text friends rather than updating their Twitter feed.
The biggest challenge in Robson’s report is to advertisers, since it is apparent that teenagers actively avoid advertising, changing channels during commercial breaks, ‘ignoring’ conventional outdoor advertising, and considering online banner ads and pop-ups “extremely annoying”. Robson does suggest, however, that teens might be a lot more responsive to viral marketing and to quirky or unusual campaigns.
Robson’s report has caused a huge stir across the world, with his findings being debated by banks, newspapers and media conglomerates, as well as many thousands of internet users. It remains to be seen whether it will make any difference to the way the media targets the next generation.