Gen Z shuns display ads, but loves native advertising

Gen Z
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According to a recent survey, society’s youngest consumer cohort – Gen Z – actively avoids display advertising. Marketing technology firm CM Group found that 52% of Gen Z respondents avoid ads ‘more than any other generation’. In contrast, they are more likely than their older peers to make purchases when content-led advertising interests them.

  • Gen Z is the first generation of truly digital natives. Born between 1997 and 2010, the cohort encompasses pre-teens to young graduates, but they all have one thing in common – they have grown up with the internet, smartphones and social media. McKinsey cites four core behaviours that define the group:
    • They value individual expression and avoid labels
    • They mobilize for a variety of causes
    • They believe in dialogue to improve the world
    • They are highly analytical and pragmatic
  • All of these traits combine to make Gen Z highly suspicious of mass marketing campaigns and more aware of authenticity. For example, they are more likely to look for and accept information recommended by influencers they trust.
  • Having grown up with social media, many see editorial and advertising as indistinguishable. While 35% of Gen Z say they dislike most advertising, they are OK with native ads and sponsored content and 34% say they make frequent purchases based on advertising content that engages them.
  • TikTok is the social media platform of choice for much of Gen Z, emerging as a trusted source of content and not just an entertainment platform. CM Group found that 41% of Gen Z gets their news and information from TikTok, almost twice as many as in other generations.
  • The content that has driven TikTok’s growth is amateur video, created in a direct, “authentic” style which appeals to Gen Z. Almost a quarter of the Gen Z respondents to the CM Group survey said they believed successful brands of the future will be authentic.
  • The CM Group advises publishers targeting Gen Z consumers to adopt content formats that mimic TikTok. These include native advertising and sponsored content that sit ‘seamlessly’ alongside other content formats. The concept of authenticity – direct, casual, under-produced, personality-led – is crucial.
Publishers and Gen Z

Publishers leading the fight for young audiences include Bustle and the Washington Post. Bustle’s TikTok features unboxing videos, product testing, and Amazon Haul videos. The Washington Post, with 1 million TikTok fans, delivers informative reports, but with a sense of humor familiar to TikTok users.

Allison Mezzafonte, media industry advisor to CM Group, says publishers have been researching TikTok and planning for Gen Z for some time. But she says experimenting with a few videos and sponsorships will not be enough to win over Gen Z. As the oldest for the group turn 25, she says now is the time to meet them where they are and show them that they matter.

Publishers need a more robust acquisition strategy that includes more Gen Z-friendly content and more scalable sponsored advertising programs to really see momentum.


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