This post is by Paul Lyonette, UK Country Manager at YuMe.

Building strong consumer relationships is key to a brand's success. Persuading consumers that a brand is worthy of their attention – and loyalty – is one of the main purposes of advertising, but this can be a lengthy process that involves numerous touch points. Therefore, brands need to ensure they are targeting relevant consumers and not wasting their marketing budget on the wrong audience.

Today this is more relevant than ever as content is consumed across a wide spectrum of platforms and devices, which creates a fragmented audience that can be challenging to reach. Device switching is now a way of life with more than 60% of online UK adults using at least two devices to access digital content each day, and 40% start an activity on one device and complete it on another. Our own research in conjunction with Nielsen found that households own on average 4.4 devices, with teenagers owning on average 3.2 devices. This further highlights the challenges faced by marketers who need to better understand the channels through which to engage their intended audience.

In another ten years millennials will account for 75% of the workforce, so it is imperative that marketers grasp the habits and behaviours of this lucrative generation. Multi-device targeting is essential when targeting millennials as they are typically highly distracted and often multi-task. Unfortunately, traditional cookie-based tracking and audience segmentation techniques are unable to track consumers across multiple devices. When you consider that 87% of consumers use smartphones whilst watching TV (millennials even higher at 92%), the problem of effective multi-screen tracking for brands becomes all too apparent.

So what should brands be doing to make sure they maximise targeting, and ensure their ads are being seen by the relevant audience?

The key to optimising reach and impact is to leverage first-party data to create precise and meaningful audience segments that define a brand's target audience. First-party data should also combine behavioural and contextual observed data that can be gained by embedding software across all screens and media types, with declared data collected through consumer surveys. In the case of the second example, it can reveal consumer attributes – such as values, viewing behaviour, personality traits, and purchasing habits – which cannot be observed online. A combination of these two types of data allows brands to understand who their consumers are, as well as what they do. With this in mind, here are five things that marketers need to consider when targeting millennials:

  1. Break tradition – TV use amongst millennials is declining year-on-year so marketers should consider alternative screens.

  2. Multi-screen targeting – Given that millennials frequently switch between connected devices – with tablets, smartphones and PCs being the most popular – marketers need to run campaigns across multiple channels and at least three different devices, if possible.

  3. Binge viewers – Millennials are the heaviest viewers of all types of video content making online video advertising a great opportunity for maximising brand awareness.

  4. Invest in mobile – Smartphones are the most popular platform for online video content viewing for millennials, with tablets being considered as the secondary screen.

  5. On the go – Millennials are more likely to watch video content on the go compared to other generations, with 54% watching video content at a friend's house and 32% while commuting.

The multitude of devices that consumers – particularly millennials – are now using provides broad opportunities for highly targeted and personalised ad campaigns. But to maximise the benefits, marketers need to be able to accurately define their target audience and understand how to connect with them across an ever-fragmenting ecosystem. By accommodating behavioural patterns relating to device use and truly understanding the demands of their audience, brands can maximise their reach and impact, and ensure their ads are being seen by potential consumers – regardless of device.