Industry Insights

How Gen Z is shaping advertising from the inside

Content by Cecilia Wood

When you ask some of the youngest team members of Big if they’re part of “Gen Z,” you’ll get a wide variety of responses. Some cuspers who more strongly identify with Millennials huff, some are confused as to what generation they truly fit, while some are passionate and wear their Gen Z banner proudly. 

Generation Z (or Gen Z, also called “zoomers”) is typically defined as individuals born between 1995 and 2010. Many members of Gen Z have grown up with constant access to technology and social networks, and that access has lent itself to us having strong opinions on the advertising we consume. For those of us who are Gen Z and also working in an integrated communications agency, we’re in the unique position to create content that’s not only effective but also designed specifically to target consumers in our generation.

How does Gen Z view advertising? 

Over 40% of Internet users report using ad blockers, and even without ad blockers, some consumers — especially those of our generation — mentally block such advertisements. For those of us who work on the other side of advertising, however, we know how much work goes into the content you might slide past on your nightly Instagram scroll. 

When we view ads, we aren’t just looking at products we might “add to cart” later. We’re thinking through our own online decisions that led us to see a certain ad, mentally calculating the cost of the budgets, and sometimes thinking of what we would have done instead. 

We consume ads differently than our peers, and we want to use what we know — from the sides of the advertiser and the target audience — to create ads that are impactful, successful, and just plain good.

How brands can “speak” to Gen Z

It’s painfully obvious when ads are trying to speak to Gen Z without internally including any Gen Zers in the conceptualization conversation. Whether it’s a meme going live well past its life cycle or language that feels unnatural for the brand, it matters to us as consumers that you know your brand, its values, and its audience and speak to those with intent. 

Why else do you need Gen Z in the conversation? We can tell you where we’re spending our time. When you want to reach a Gen Z audience with targeted ads, you’ll probably want to spend more of your budget on social media than traditional mediums. 

“Millennials and Gen Z are both less influenced by traditional advertising. As our generation is entering the field, we’re considering what other ways we can speak to our age group. Not only from a tonal, messaging, and creative standpoint, but how and where we deliver that message to them,” said Big Senior Copywriter John Kennedy.

We can tell when your brand’s values don’t match your brand’s marketing

When a brand posts a statement about its values without showing any action to back it up, we take note. On the other hand, if a brand never takes any stances — no matter how small those may seem — we see that, too. 

Thanks to the vast amount of knowledge on the Internet, we’re equipped with the information we need to dig deeper into brands and their values. A brand’s stance on racial equity, gender representation, sustainable practices, and more can’t just be a tagline. It has to be backed up with action. 

Gen Z doesn’t just have more info at our fingertips to judge a brand. We also treat businesses differently; we expect opinions like we would expect an opinion from a person. But beyond judging brands for their actions and values, Gen Z’s purchasing habits are also influenced by these same factors. For example, a Deloitte survey found that 64% of Gen Zs would pay more to purchase an environmentally sustainable product. What you stand for and what you do as a brand matters to us. 

“People will assign values to your company anyway, so you may as well make them what you actually want them to be,” said Big Associate Producer Madison Bullock. 

The bottom line: to speak to Gen Z, you need to listen to them first 

Not only is Gen Z poised to be 27% of the workforce by 2025, but we currently have a whopping $360 billion in disposable income. These two statistics alone should be enough to stress this young generation’s importance for advertisers and brands. Ultimately, if you’re making decisions without Gen Z in mind (or in internal brand meetings), you might not get the results you’re hoping for.

Want to Talk?

Niki Lim Roden

Director of Business Development