"Young Adults Revealed," a June and July Synovate/Microsoft Advertising study, was released this month showing the extent to which 18-24 year-olds interact with brands in their online activities. The survey covered 12,603 young adults in 26 countries, giving insight into their online behaviors. With high Internet and mobile phone usage, they engage with brands in an extensively active manner: nearly one-third regularly talk about brands in online forums or discussion boards. “They are more than just ‘comfortable’ with brands,” said Julian Rolfe, global manager at Synovate, in a statement. “They want to associate themselves with brands they see as ‘cool’ and this is why we see them uploading clips to their social networking sites and IM services.” This brand comfort translates to young adults accessing information about brands, products and services directly through search engines (47 percent of of US respondents and 46 percent worldwide), and favorite sites (eighteen or 26 percent). Other methods used to a lesser extent were personal start pages or homepages (iGoogle or similar), portal sites, conversations or links shared by friends via IM and email, and social networking sites.

Advertising is affected by these preferences. “If advertising is done in a relevant and credible way, young adults are actually eager to interact, share opinions and even pass the message on,” says Beth Uyenco, global research director at Microsoft Advertising in eMarketer. Respondents were most likely to share comedy clips (62%), followed by music clips (40%) and clips featuring friends (27%). Almost ten percent shared viral advertising and marketing clips.

As for the usefulness of ad types, an August 2008 Alloy Media + Marketing survey showed that college students rank word-of-mouth advertising as most useful, and samples after that. They do still consider traditional media methods important, such as TV, magazine and radio ads - all of which rank higher than online ads.