The Kids are Watching Your Ads

By: Conner Galway

One of the hottest topics of conversation in marketing circles is always how “kids these days” are consuming media, but we recently learned something even more interesting: They might actually like being advertised to.

“Gen Z might actually like being advertised to.”

The people who get lumped together in the Gen Z category grew up with digital media. They’ve never known a time when ads weren’t popping up or sliding in as they were trying to consume media, and their information has always been recorded, tracked, and targeted. That’s probably why a number of recent studies seem to show that they may actually be in favour of better-targeted, more relevant advertising.

The first number that jumped off the page of a study reported by Marketing Dive was that over 75% of Gen Z reported buying a product based the recommendation of an influencer in the past year. When we narrow that down only to beauty and food & beverage products, that number jumps to 85%.

“85% of Gen Z buy beauty, food & beverage products based on an influencer’s recommendation.”

Note the word “reported” — boomers, and Gen X for that matter, are extremely reluctant to ever admit that any marketing effort has influenced their purchase decisions. Gen Zs are apparently self-aware and willing to own up to it. They’re also making it easier for advertisers to track them, even though they are better informed about how to block that tracking from happening. The study shows that Gen Z protects their data much differently than Boomers:

  • 3x more likely to allow tracking when presented with prompts such as those for Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (compared to Boomers)
  • Less likely to clear their browser cookies (41% vs. 59%)
  • Less likely to use an ad blocker (27% vs. 32%)
  • Proving their tech-savviness, they are much more likely to use a VPN (32% vs. 27%)

They are also significantly more likely to take an action, or recall what’s been advertised to them (especially when it comes to video ads):

  • They’re much more likely to scan a QR code (25% vs. 9%)
  • 45% of them are likely to recall an ad they’ve seen on YouTube
  • They’re twice as likely to recall an ad on YouTube than one on TikTok

If all of that is true, it changes the whole relationship that advertisers and consumers have with each other. For the past few decades, ads have tried everything they could to masquerade as native or organic content, but what if they didn’t have to pretend to be something that they’re not?

In a world where the audience sees ads as being useful, or at least informative, they can focus on being helpful, educational, and straightforward. They can, and should, still be entertaining and beautiful, but wouldn’t it be refreshing to live in a world where content wasn’t trying to trick you?

Perhaps that’s an overly optimistic reading of the data, but at minimum, anyone who is targeting a younger audience should take into account the fact that they know what you’re doing when you’re targeting them, and if you do it well, they may even thank you for it.