Generation Z (generally believed to begin with people born in 1996) is statistically 23 million strong, and has reached an age of tremendous buying power. However, much of the advertising which appears to be targeted at Generation Z seems tone deaf about how to appeal to us. I believe that the majority of mistakes that advertisers are making lie within the many business articles I have read describing my generation. A major example of this can be found in a recent Bloomberg article:
“Members of this new generation also have an 8-second attention span, down from 12 seconds in 2000”
In response, advertisers have made their ads louder, zanier, and more obnoxious. What they don’t seem to understand is that like most people, we find these ads annoying and skip them or turn them off long before we ever figure out what the advertisement is for. This is particularly true in the case of ads with long, nonsensical buildups to a brief presentation of the product being advertised as the last thing the viewer is shown. In fact, if I find that an annoying ad is unskippable, I find myself growing angry with both the company and the product. This is, I am sure, not the response that advertisers are hoping for. Below is an example of an ad that I, as well as my friends, find memorably obnoxious.
In this day and age, there are three things that advertisers should truly know about my generation. One, I am so oversaturated by ads, that I don’t even see them anymore. In order to capture my attention, you must work from the concept that I have never seen an advertisement before. Think back to when your company’s advertisement might be the only one someone in rural 1930’s Oklahoma might see all year. Popular themes were classic ones; romance, a happy family, or idyllic life. These safe, hopeful images can be updated to be a relief from the rather nerve-wracking advertisements advertisers seems so set on making. A great example of an appealing advertisement is this Extra gum commercial.
It is almost two minutes long, much longer than the Ice Breaker ad, and yet it somehow feels much shorter. This brings me to my second point: we will watch ads because our content is not that important. We don’t get on YouTube to watch one video our friend told us was great, we scroll through tens, if not hundreds of videos in one sitting to sate boredom. Because of this, we are in no hurry to get to the video we clicked on; in fact, an interesting ad, one that tells a story, is a welcome and captivating distraction. Another great illustration of a story advert is this Budweiser commercial.
Many advertisers seem to be currently operating under the belief that Gen Z’s media consumption is going to be a continuous upward climb, with the introduction of VR headsets and the increase in popularity of augmented reality games like Pokémon Go. However, although I cannot point to hard evidence yet, I can tell you that the attitude of my generation is changing with regards towards social media. What was once excitement and happiness has now soured into suspicion and stress, with reports being released about the personal data that social media websites such as Facebook are hoarding as well as the increasing pressure for more and more likes, shares and reposts. Many of us are beginning to check out, to attempt to escape from what was once our escape. This is by no means to say that this generation is going to turn Luddite overnight; merely that the countless hours that we spent scrolling through social media is coming to a close.
Finally, even an edgier ad should focus on people banding together and breaking free from the technological bonds of modern society. A perfect example is Adidas’s new ad campaign. While Gen Z is inextricably intertwined with technology, they do not embrace it as the generations before them have. Instead they both rely on it while still maintaining a certain level of dissatisfaction with their dependence upon it. This ties into a larger group of things my generation feels trapped by; lack of money, an uncaring invasive government, and the constant threat of terrorist attacks. We don’t remember a time when the only emergency drills schools did were for fires, you could cut class without being arrested, and wouldn’t be put on a watch list for buying a plane ticket in cash. Therefore, the concept that “your future is not mine” seems reassuring and even empowering.
I believe by adopting some of the key elements I talked about the advertiser can have better market absorption and increase profits. Generation Z is an essential marketing demographic, and to lose out on their market share is to be at an increasingly large disadvantage.