I’ve been reading a lot of research for a class I’m taking for my Masters program on cultural theory and cultural consumption, and advertising’s place in it. It made me think about how much modern life has progressed, and how getting people to care about advertising is ever more difficult.

One proposal from the cultural and feminist theorist Mica Nava is that young people consume advertisements independently of the product they are advertising. Her argument is essentially:

  1. Advertising deserves to be considered as another art form equal to painting, poetry, and fine art, because art and advertising overlap and cross-reference each other all the time.
  2. People, especially the young, pay more attention to art than advertising as our cynicism grows about being manipulated by marketers.
  3. The way to catch people’s attention and stand out in an increasingly crowded market is to make advertisements look more like art.
  4. Young people are the fastest growing segment of the market, and so their taste in art should be catered to in creating advertisements.

Anyone who’s been paying attention to popular trends knows that millennials are the the most desired segment: my generation is simultaneously mystifying and attractive to marketers, advertisers, and artists of all kinds. The question always asked is: how do millennials work?

I’ve definitely noticed my generation doesn’t like to be blatantly advertised at. By this, I mean that we are the most cynical because we have grown up with the modern advertising trends that rule how advertising is done today. We’ve grown up with the technology that advertisers use to get themselves noticed, and we can use it just as well to to ignore adverts. Therefore, advertisers have realized how useless it is to just straight up advertise products for millennials to buy.

Most people my age like ethical companies, creative companies, and innovative companies. My generation is acutely aware of how influential we are, and we are just waiting to get into positions of power so we can actually make a difference. Millennials who are starting companies today are better at being genuine–a lot of us just want to make a positive difference in the world.

So to get us to buy stuff, you have to make it seem like you’re not trying to get us to buy stuff. Your advertising should look like art. You won’t do well if you don’t put some effort into making it seem like you’re not just trying to make a buck off of the millennial market. Millennials may recognize that companies inevitably just want our dollars, but we’ll appreciate it more (and you’ll succeed more) if the company is earnest in trying to earn them.

P.S. You might be confused about the image attached to this post. The image is a painting by Andy Warhol, who routinely used advertising and consumer products in his art. He is an example of how art and advertising overlap, so I’ve used one of his more famous works for this post.