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Just who are these 'Millennials?'

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 business commentator

Dallas, TX – Some historians question just how useful it is to divide and label people born in a certain time period. I believe the advertising industry has a whole encylopedia of answers to that question. But the current "Millennial" Generation seems to be puzzling marketers. I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Midday.

Okay, so you might be asking yourself, "Who the heck is the 'Millennial' generation?" Don't worry, I didn't have a clue either. They are the 18- to 24-year-olds. The online resource Wikipedia identifies "millennial" as Americans born from 1982 to 2003 - that's assuming the average generation length. "Their typical grandparents are from the Silent Generation and their typical parents are of the Baby Boomers and Generation X." They were originally called Generation Y. Thank goodness someone took a creative pill and now "Millennial" represents those births spanning the year 2000.

According to the New York Times, one advertising agency craving to get a better grasp on this generation - and its estimated $100 billion spending power - has opened up a special unit specifically geared to this elusive young adult. The name McCann-Erickson Worldwide Advertising may not ring a bell, but a few of their clients will. Wendy's, MasterCard and Bacardi are just three companies interested in ways of capturing this generation.

Account manager Lori Senecal told the Times, "It's a generation that's really challenging the status quo of marketing and communications." She explains somehow these young adults have created "hard-to-penetrate buffers" between themselves and the barrage of advertising they've grown up with. So in an attempt to the crack this intangible code, this new unit is using some almost spy-like techniques. For example, executives interview those people that might have the best insight to the target audience: teachers, athletic coaches and, watch out, barbers.

I say run for your lives, Millennial Generation - keep 'em baffled. For KERA Marketplace Midday, I'm Maxine Shapiro.


Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 p.m.

Email Maxine Shapiro about this story.