Study: Gen Z more discriminating, more advertising resistant than Gen X or Y

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A massive new demographically segmented study from Kantar Millward Brown presents an instructive (and challenging) set of findings for marketers trying to reach younger audiences. The study spanned 39 countries and 23,907 interviews, including populations representing Gen X (35–49), Gen Y (20–34) and Gen Z (16–19).

In general, the report concludes that there’s no “one size fits all” approach that will work equally well for each generational audience segment. And while many attitudes are consistent across generations, the report argues that Gen Z is the most difficult for marketers to reach and engage:

It’s particularly tricky to get Gen Z to engage, because they are highly discriminating and more averse to advertising in general. In the online space Gen Z are significantly more likely to skip ads, suggesting they have a lower threshold for boredom. They are also more turned off by invasive, interruptive online and mobile formats.

Interestingly, the report also finds that members of Gen Z are somewhat more positive than the other groups toward ads in traditional media vs. digital. Conversely, they’re hostile to some forms of digital advertising: search, display and video (esp. mobile video).

How would you describe your attitude towards each of the following formats of advertising?

Kantar ad receptiveness study

This is paradoxical given that Gen Z consumes more mobile and digital media than others, if only by modest margins. Gen Z should (in theory) be more positively inclined toward digital ads, less interested in traditional media. But the opposite appears to be true.

Despite their heavy usage of digital media, Gen Z respondents are much more accepting of traditional media ads and hostile to intrusive or interruptive ad formats, especially if they don’t allow Gen Z to control the experience — for example, non skippable video pre-roll and mobile pop-ups or takeovers.

How would you describe your attitude towards each of the following formats of online video advertising?

Kantar generations study

Gen Z (and Gen X) had more positive attitudes toward selected types of branded digital content: tutorials, social media feeds, sponsored events, advertorial and other types of sponsored content. Gen Z members were also more receptive to ad units they could control, skip or mute. For a minority of respondents, ad interactivity also boosted receptiveness.

The study found that Gen Z members were not as interested in ads that featured celebrities or novel technology (e.g., augmented reality) and more receptive to ads that offered solid creative, told interesting stories, were humorous and had compelling music.

Which characteristics make you more positive towards ads?


Beyond the obvious and general imperative for marketers to better align ad creative and formats with user attitudes and behaviors, the study is important because it helps reveal preferences and attitudes of a global demographic segment representing more than two billion people – today.

You can download the full report here.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.


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