NextGen wants information on own time, terms

The next generation today's teens and 20-somethings wants information on its own time, its own terms and its own tech device.

That desire shapes everything from the look of advertising at Reno-Tahoe International Airport to the increasing popularity of self-service kiosks everywhere from retailers to public libraries.

"In the past, customers expected companies to do a lot of the work for them," says Peter Honebein of Reno, a principal at Customer Performance Group. "Now, companies are expecting customers to do more of the work themselves, and when the experience is designed effectively customers respond enthusiastically."

Self-service is the most visible manifestation of that, says Honebein, who's also an adjunct professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the co-author of the book "Creating Do-It-Yourself Customers."

He points to examples such as Southwest Airlines, which encouraged passengers to book tickets on-line and then led the charge into airport kiosks that provide boarding passes.

Younger people especially young males are willing to assume more risk and adopt new things, says Honebein.

Young people take easily to new technology, he adds, because everything's as easy as point and click. "The barriers to entry are reduced," he says. "And they've grown up with it."

Traditional mainstream media has limited success reaching that generation, says Catherine Oaks, president of Image Base International, a Reno-based new media marketing firm.

The under-30 generation basically doesn't watch TV, says Tony Trowbridge, vice president of worldwide sales at Image Base. Plus, traditional broadcast advertising is stymied by TiVo, satellite radio and online options.

But he says one opportunity to reach the consumer remains: the specific time and place where people decide what to do next.

At Reno-Tahoe International Airport, for instance, digital signage is changed often to project whatever promotion Grand Sierra Resort is advertising at the moment.

But as yet, most properties continue to post backlit poster display signs. Cost is a factor. The static sign comes in at about $3,000 while the digital version costs $12,000 to $18,000.

"But the payback period is six months to a year," says Oaks. The savings comes in labor costs eliminated. Rather than paying to send out a crew to physically change the sign, digital media is programmed from company headquarters.

Fast-food outlets are a natural for the technology, she adds, because of the ease of changing items, pictures and prices.

And the point-of-purchase location when a shopper stops to decide is where new advertising technology can deliver information relevant to the moment.

"Europe is five years ahead of the U.S. in digital technology," says Trowbridge. There, the presence of a shopper can trigger a sound loop carrying an advertising message. The sound is tightly controlled to keep it from annoying bystanders.

Also growing is advertising delivered via iPods, iPhones and personal digital assistants.

Those miniature mediums shape the messages conveyed: Mini messages.

"They have to be fast," says Oaks. "They have to be fresh."

"It's called Blink advertising five to 10 seconds," says Wigent. "Snackable videos. They have to be fun. We're all ADD now."

Personalized advertising also is on the way.

Already, says Honebein, display windows at Ralph Lauren stores in New York and London have touch-sensitive store windows that allow window shoppers to select the items about which they want more information.

In Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay has installed a touch-sensitive wall system with which tour-ists can interact to zero in on their interests.

"Kiosks are a great way to capture customer data," says Robert Payne, marketing manager at Twelve Horses in Reno. "It can determine why they came into the store and what else they might be interested in."

Twelve Horses sees a growing demand from young consumers for technology that can deliver on-demand discount coupons through the medium of cell phones.

"Twelve Horses gave every employee an iPhone," says Payne. "It's revolutionized mobile web browsing. It will be interesting to see how the mobile medium evolves. And interesting to see how companies design for these technologies."


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