Say Hello
to the

Article Number 2 Desktop article number 2

New Digital Media Now Will Help Brands Reach Cord-Nevers in the Future

Emily Edwards

Today there are “cord-shavers,” “cord-cutters,” and the ever-elusive “cord-nevers.” Cord-nevers are the individuals who have never subscribed to a traditional pay TV service. In October 2015, Forrester reported that cord-nevers made up 18 percent of the U.S. population. Forrester also estimated that by 2025, half of all TV viewers under age 32 will not pay for TV in the current model. Pretty scary, right? Especially when most big-name brands rely so heavily on linear TV for advertising. To progress and thrive among a growing population of cord-nevers, brands must extend their campaigns to new media now to learn how to better communicate with cord-nevers in the future.

A diagram demonstrating the amount of adults who have a cable subscription, canceled their cable description, or never had one.
Source: Forrester, 2015

Cord-nevers are typically Millennials who are either in school, living with their parents, or employed at their first job right out of college. The biggest difference between cord-nevers and cord-cutters is that the cord-nevers have skipped an entire stage of viewer development. Unlike cord-cutters who have come to terms with dropping their cable subscriptions, most cord-nevers have grown up with the belief that they can watch anything they want without paying a traditional TV distributor. The question is, if cord-nevers currently make up 18 percent of the U.S. population and growing, how and where are they consuming content on a daily basis?

According to Forrester, cord-nevers typically watch nearly 8 hours of streaming video per week. They tend to view streaming video on their PCs at a significantly higher rate, but are open to watching video on their smartphones as well. Cord-nevers are not only changing which content distributors they rely on, but they are expanding what it means to “watch TV.” In 2016, YouTube commissioned a study by comScore to deep dive into Millennial viewing habits. The study concluded that the fragmentation of the current viewing environment would continue and that digital will become increasingly significant in the distribution of viewing content for Millennials. ComScore’s findings may rattle some advertisers who have historically relied on TV as a media plan driver, but this shift in viewership is the perfect opportunity for brands to target the right audience with relevant messaging.

For most advertisers, the obvious answer to this conundrum may be to increase pre-roll, full episode player, and video companion banner units – done and done, right? Not so fast – keep in mind that the average Millennial cord-never is platform-agnostic and consumes content in numerous fragmented ways throughout the day. Another way to reach cord-nevers is to capitalize on big tentpole moments such as live sports, season finales, or award shows throughout the year. Many brands are testing and finding success in reaching the cord-never audience during tentpole moments with the following media.

Kohl’s Oscars Sponsorship

During Kohl’s first year as the exclusive Oscars® sponsor in 2016, it launched an integrated campaign that included four TV spots and all major social channels. Kohl’s goal for the sponsorship was to reach new Millennial customers, and it offered exclusive content in between TV spots on social.

Kohl’s Oscars campaign used the hashtag #allthegoodstuff and asked viewers to tweet their own acceptance-speech style of gratitude during the weeks leading up to the award show. Kohl’s also partnered with “Saturday Night Live” comedian Vanessa Bayer and celebrity party planner Mindy Weiss to create a content series for viewing-party inspiration on their Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages. During the award show, Kohl’s live-streamed Vanessa Bayer’s viewing party, outfitted by Kohl’s, where she read selected #allthegoodstuff submissions from Twitter. Kohl’s Oscars’ campaign was successful in lifting its Twitter engagements over 600 percent.

A snapshot of Kohl's digital streaming of the Oscars.

An invitation to Kohl's digital live-stream Twitter party of the Oscars.

Trolli Snapchat Ads Takeover Campaign During the NBA All-Star Game

During the NBA All-Star Game, Trolli, makers of the infamous Gummy Worms candy, partnered with James Harden of the Houston Rockets and created a multichannel integrated campaign that consisted of a TV spot, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram behind-the-scenes content.

“Weirdly awesome” things happened when Trolli encouraged Snapchatters to “be a baller and eat crawlers.” Trolli ran a Snap Ads Takeover Campaign in Snapchat’s NBA All-Star Game Live Story and NBA Playoffs Opening Night Live Story. Millward Brown measured that the Snapchat campaign reached over 4 million users ages 13-34, resulted in a 33 percent lift in purchase intent that was over 2.5 times higher than mobile consumer packaged goods norms, and 90 percent of Snapchatters who remembered the campaign enjoyed it.

Trolli's ad for the digital video campaign on Snapchat with James Harden of the Houston Rockets.The results of Trolli's digital video campaign on Snapchat.

MTV Video Music Awards 2016

For TV properties such as Viacom’s MTV (whose audience skews on the younger Millennial side), a huge indicator of the cord-never shift came from viewership results of the 2016 Video Music Awards (VMAs). The VMAs are MTV’s flagship event of the year, and as an extension of the televised awards, MTV posted to its Live Story feed on Snapchat throughout the event. VMA-related content (which was live for 24 hours August 28-29) on MTV’s Snapchat account delivered 30.5 million total video views vs. 25 million the previous year. However, linear TV viewership was down 34 percent compared to the previous year and garnered a total of 6.5 million viewers across the 11-network live simulcast (MTV, MTV2, MTV Classic, VH1, Comedy Central, Spike, TV Land, BET, CMT, Centric, and Logo). These results suggest that over three times as many Snapchat users saw VMA content as people who watched the award show on linear TV, which left MTV and advertisers scratching their heads.

A snapshot of the VMAs utilizing Snapchat for the flagship event.

MTV president Sean Atkins commented on the show’s viewership stats: “If you didn’t do all the digital stuff, would they come back to linear? I don’t think so.” Atkins continued, “In a world of infinite options, you don’t solve that by pretending those options don’t exist.” Sean Atkins makes a very good point and reinforces that digital content works well when there is a major tentpole event, whether it be for a network or a retailer.

Today’s Millennials are already difficult to reach, and the next generation will be tougher. As the cord-never demographic grows, the optimal thing brands can do now during big moments is to integrate broadcast efforts with new digital channels. This will give brands the potential to reach the right audience, at the right time, and communicate the best message possible.

  • Emily EdwardsEmily Edwards

    Digital Strategy
    At The Richards Group, Emily works to create digital and integrated campaign strategies for Dr Pepper, Diet Dr Pepper, and Andersen Windows. She brings a perspective to projects that’s driven both by culture and her experience in the world of digital marketing. Emily enjoys naps, cheeseburgers, and people-watching. Her goal in life is to win The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Heltai, Gillian. “What Millennials’ YouTube Usage Tells Us About the Future of Video Viewership.” comScore, June 23, 2016.
  2. 6 Online Video Insights From comScore to Inform Your 2017 Media Plan.” Google Inside AdWords, June 23, 2016.
  3. McQuivey, James L. “Young TV Cord-Nevers Have Arrived and Are Here to Stay.” Forrester, October 6, 2015.
  4. McQuivey, James. “By 2025, 50% of Adults Under Age 32 Will Not Pay for TV.” Forrester, October 7, 2015.
  5. The Relationship of Digital Video Viewership and TV Programming.” Nielsen.
  6. Trolli Snap Ads Takeover Campaign.”
  7.  Spangler, Todd. “MTV VMAs Viewers on Snapchat Rose 75% Over Last Year, While TV Audience Plunged.” Variety, August 31, 2016.