A born-ready generation

7th December 2020

Yet again, today, I found myself exasperated by my children whose faces were buried in not one, not two, but three screens each. Surely this isn’t doing them any good, when in “My Day”, according to my peers, I was outside playing with glass bottles on a busy street whilst cycling without a helmet, carefully watched by the resident street weirdo. I grew up in Clapham, when it had only market stalls and cafes – certainly no cafés – so this description isn’t far off the mark. My children may be physically safer, but surely all this input is messing with their brains and making them lazy?

My children are firmly planted in the centre of Generation Z. The generation that has brought us Greta Thunberg. A generation that is commanding respect and expecting results. Now. And the eldest are only just stepping out of full-time education. I hate to admit it, but I’m beginning to feel that their generation is perhaps the least messed up in the brain department.

We have some general facts about Gen Z:

  1. It is the most diverse, multicultural generation in all of our history
  2. They are even more open-minded than their elder millennials. They accept any sexual orientation
  3. They do not see gender in terms of societal, career, etc. roles.
  4. They are fascinated with the “new,” and many more indicate a goal of entrepreneurship
  5. They are passionate about their beliefs and principles, and demand action, not just words
  6. They know how to learn on their own and will use digital methods to do so
  7. They are committed to making a difference and will take action to do so

In the US, the focus, commitment and determination of the children affected by school shootings, both in Parkland and Sandy Hook resulted in stricter gun laws than anyone dared believe would pass. Incidentally, if you haven’t yet seen the harrowing video from Sandy Hook Promise, you can view it here.

We need to know how to communicate with Generation Z, because they will not be taken for fools. They have an uncanny ability to smell bullshit from miles away, and have a built-in “fake filter”. They will not accept lip service, platitudes or pandering. They are the digital generation – each of them aware of the matrix, if you’ll excuse the analogy, into which they have been born, and they will revolutionise society. I must admit, I am in awe, and often feel like I’m learning more than I’m trying to teach. The lessons I attempt to instill don’t fit anymore, because I’m running out of references – this is far from the world of my youth.

If Gen Z can receive information from three screens at once, how can advertisers convey a message without being drowned out – or worse still, be skipped over? By 2021, Generation Z is going to represent over 45% of all consumers globally, and with a significant number of them continuing to live at home, their influence over household spending is set to push their representation to well over half of all consumers. Understanding what gets their attention is going to be critical for businesses to succeed. Shouting doesn’t work – trust me, I’ve tried.

The task for marketers who need to capture a Gen Z consumer audience is to create campaigns that will not be “skipped over.” And there is some research on this.

Kantar Millward Brown conducted a rather deep study into the advertising preferences of three generations – Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.

It tested the impact of 31 adverts in 10 countries and it interviewed about 24 thousand consumers in 39 countries. Here are the findings:

  1. Gen Z is the generation least willing to tolerate any form of online advertising
  2. Gen Z prefers video ads on their phones
  3. Gen Z wants the option to skip ads and uses that option as much as possible
  4. Gen Z “forgives” native advertising and endorsements from their “influencers.”
  5. Marketing strategies for Gen Z consumers should avoid invasive ads and instead opt for organic alternatives that seem natural

Generation Z were born into constant digital engagement – it’s part of their DNA, and as a result, they are the least tolerant of online advertising. The study showed that only 27% of Gen Z participants reacted favourably to mobile video – unless rewards were offered. If there is a skip option, such as on YouTube videos, Gen Z tended to skip around 3 seconds faster than Gen X.

Contrary to popular belief, the view that Gen Z attention spans have shrunk to eight seconds could actually be an eight-second filter. This makes a lot of sense. Considering the sheer volume of information they are constantly bombarded with online, it’s possibly an evolutionary tactic to help them break content down to a manageable size. They also rely heavily on trending pages within apps, and turn to trusted online advisors like Zoe Sugg and Dan TDM to locate the most relevant information and entertainment.

But once you grab Gen Z’s attention, they have the ability to become intensely focussed and committed. They’ve got such a grasp on the internet that they are able to “go deep” into any topic of their choosing and find information from like-minded fans. Specialisation into particularly obscure interests is not uncommon.

In order to be noticed by Gen Z, advertisers need to pass their eight second filter, be authentic, and worthy of their time. Location must be considered – think streaming and on-demand – this is not a time-scheduled terrestrial television watching generation. Organic, in-app content must be engaging and immediately beneficial. For an entire generation built on instant feedback and gratification, one-way messaging just won’t cut it. You may as well go back to shouting…

At Oi, we take the time to understand your audience, and our strategists, creatives and digital experts develop award-winning campaigns that cut through the digital noise to elevate your brand and make you stand out from the crowd. Isn’t it time you talked to us? (Virtually for now.)

Torti Algate

Content lead