Agencies have an uneasy relationship with the "new generation of consumers," to say the least. Sure, stats like the above have become a must-have in any client presentation, there are slides on the trends of their behavior, there are audience insights and landscape overviews. But still, these consumers ("millenials", "gen Y", "superconsumers") are treated more as some special species from the future than as the everyday marketing reality.
Ok, this may not be completely fair. Agencies have been getting better in marketing to these people online - that is true. At the same time, the question is: do they really, truly understand how today's young consumers behave online, why and how they use the web, and how to resonate with them? Because if they did, would they still been doing what they are doing? This is, to the great extent, still brand-dominated world. The campaigns are approached from the brand's point of view, and retrofitted into consumer behavior. This is only understandable, since it is the brands that are paying for campaigns. Got to make a living. Still, how long this can go on, until the new generation of consumers completely slips out?
First, the "kids" who grew up with the Internet are not kids anymore - they are way past college, with a completely new set of needs, and consequently products, services and brands that can respond to them. What they are not past is their media habits and behaviors. You don't crucially change the way how you use the web and behave online just because you grew up - you further it and build upon it. The expectations that have been formed earlier stay. Don't expect that someone who watched TV shows online all of the sudden signs up for Time Warner - they may just hook up their computer to a flat-screen that they can now afford. Someone who shopped on Etsy may upgrade to Net-a-Porter, but the deal is the same. And so on.
Second, and more important for this present moment is that whoever is in touch with this generation changed their own media habits, too. Parents (and grandparents) are now on Facebook to keep tabs on their kids (or just plainly to connect with their long-lost high-school friends or play Farmville); they watch YouTube; they go to Twitter (can't beat all those coupon deals); and maybe even occasionally take a peek on Foursquare. And this is where the real challenge is: what we thought of as typical "suburban" parents are hardly such anymore. If we thought that we knew trends and behaviors of a certain demographics, we actually can't claim that today. All bets are off.
The point is that the change that new generation may be leading spreads way too fast to all other demographic segments. It impacts how other generational demos are consuming media, shopping, reading news, communicating, and interacting with brands. Because they all live in the same home, the gap between early adopters and the mainstream rapidly narrows.
So while agency teams are still building personas (btw, do people still do that?) with a photo of some edgy teenager, they may as well replace it with a young professional, college graduate, or whomever else fits the bill. Soon, it's all going to be the same media habits, brand expectations, and consumption patterns. It may finally be time to stop talking about the millenials, and start thinking about the millenial behavior.