Reach for the Z

Niamh Manning

Niamh Manning, Marketing Executive, delves into the attitudes and ad perceptions of Gen Z, 15-24-year olds in this case, who are set to become the largest generation of consumers by 2020.

Move over millennials and avocado toast because Gen Z is coming.

While age range is a topic of debate, the former of the generation is beginning to graduate into adulthood and the workforce, finding independence within their purchasing habits and maturing into fully-fledged consumers.

According to MCCP, Gen Z now accounts for 21% of the Irish population with the census estimating there are approx. 605,000 15-24-year olds living in Ireland.

Growing up with the internet, they are the first digital natives of Ireland. They don’t remember a time with no social media or smartphones and because of this their consumption habits and attitudes to advertising are drastically different from generations before them.

Avoiding Intrusions

Being digital natives, Gen Z has witnessed the explosion and saturation of advertising channels and formats in recent years. Their awareness of advertising is heightened from the volume of ads they wade through every day, as well as intensifying concerns over privacy and data handling.

As a result, they can be critical of advertising methods. Qualitative research collected for an Ámarach Gen Z study shows ad overload, repetitiveness and being wrongly targeted are particular advertising pet peeves for the next generation.

The proliferation of streaming services and tech has also had a significant impact on the advertising model with the rise of ad free TV, ad free music and the use of adblockers changing behaviour.

TGI insights shows 52% of Gen Z feel bombarded by ads and nearly half use some type of adblocker on their devices. They are also more likely to use the software when compared to the rest of the population (Index: 114). It appears Gen Z prefer non-intrusive advertising formats and is skilled at avoiding ads when they become disruptive.

Simply put, Gen Z are being exposed to less advertising, making the most connected the hardest to reach.

Reaching for Z

While it may not seem the most obvious choice for today’s connected youth, OOH is well placed to cater for these over saturated viewers.

According to a 2017 study by Kantar Millward Brown, one of the most popular media for Gen Z is Out of Home. The same study reports that 55% of Gen Z favour Outdoor advertising because they find it “relaxing”.

Out of Home is seen as a passive medium, consumed by people as they journey through their daily lives.  It’s seen as part of the landscape and there is certain amount of control the audience has over Outdoor, reaching them at a time when they are generally more receptive to advertising and looking for distraction when out and about.

OOH holds a unique position in the media landscape as it doesn’t disrupt people, experiences, activities or content being consumed, factors that are contributing to advertising fatigue across all audiences.

Linking the Offline and Online

This is not to say digital advertising is ineffective or redundant for Gen Z.  However, OOH is becoming the mainstay for cross channel campaigns and driving engagement in a more direct way.

OOH is proven to strengthen digital and mobile advertising, important for a generation who are heavy mobile users.  A report released by Nielsen shows OOH is the most effective offline medium in driving online activity, delivering four times more online activity than other traditional counterparts.

OOH is proven to amplify other channels and create action among audiences transcending from the real to the digital world and bridging the gap between the two.  Our own iQ research shows 64% of Gen Z has searched online for more information about company/product they’ve seen advertised on Out of Home and 60% have visited a retail outlet/store as a result.

Shared experience

Out of Home, being in the public domain, is also a medium that is shared with others making it a real and collective experience, something that appeals to Gen Z.

Gen Z will amplify the campaign into other spheres- whether that’s sharing it through their social media feeds or discussing with friends and family.  OOH now not only attracts eyeballs but engagement with billboards becoming as instagrammable as food – we all see it, therefore we can all talk about it.

PML Group’s Out of Home consumer survey (OCS) emphasises this with nearly a third of Gen Z talking to friends and family about a brand they saw advertised on Out of Home in the past week. 26% have also taken a picture of an OOH advert in the past week.

OOH triggers Gen Z to respond, something that is imperative to a brand when they look to create awareness, relevance and affinity with the fickle consumers that have little or no brand loyalty as of yet.

In the coming years, Gen Z will begin to have an increasing influence on how brands communicate and engage.  And while it’s important to note this is a generation spanning multiple life stages with variance in behaviour, as a whole they are and will continue to shift trends in communication and consumption.

It is imperative advertisers understand this coming of age audience to gain the insight on where to focus their efforts to create truly integrated cross channel campaigns for effective advertising and advertisers shouldn’t underestimate the power of OOH in influencing Gen Z.

Now reach for the Z.