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Marketing to Generation Z audiences

Stephanie Bissonnette
Stephanie Bissonnette
5 min read
2 June 2022

How brands can optimize creative advertising for Gen-Z

Generation-Z (Gen-Z), which is made up of people born between 1997 and 2012, is often characterized by the use of the word “cheugy,” an interest in Jojo Siwa, and the desire to bring back the middle hair part (much to the dismay of millennials everywhere).

Whether you’re in-house or at an agency, the past five years have revealed that honing in on the Gen-Z audience is increasingly desirable for clients across verticals. But how do you reach a user who’s savvy enough to detect an ad from a mile away? We’ve broken down the best ways to grab the attention of Gen-Zers – and how you can optimize your creative to successfully convert them.

Who is Generation Z?

Before you invest too heavily into ads targeted at Gen-Z consumers, it’s important to understand who they are. What are their interests? How do they spend their time? Which content resonates with them?

Gen-Zers are digital natives, with little to no memory of the world before the internet. With 98% owning a smartphone, it’s understandable that screen time has increased by more than 1.5x over the past six years. More time online means more content and less time spent on an individual ad. Gen-Z has an affinity for user-generated, short-form content; it’s more authentic and relatable than the longer-form or more produced ads that brands have typically created.

These pop culture enthusiasts/mobile-dependents/social activists are looking to consume music, food, gaming, and general entertainment content. Gen-Zers want to feel connected to those they follow as well as those who follow them. They value individuality but also strive to be understood by their community.

With this background knowledge, you can now begin researching platforms that will have the greatest impact when advertising to the Gen-Z audience.

Social media platforms for Gen-Z audiences

For Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, Facebook would seem a natural place to advertise. Gen-Z, on the other hand, has different preferences. Visually-oriented social networks, such as Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, continue to grow in popularity among younger users. In fact, by the latter half of 2020, just 2% of Gen-Z users reported that Facebook was their favorite platform compared to 34% favoring Snapchat, 29% favoring TikTok, and 25% favoring Instagram.

But don’t feel limited to those three outlets! Pinterest, Twitter, and Reddit continue to climb in favorability; one in five Gen-Zers is expected to utilize at least one of these platforms by the year 2025. (sources: A look at Gen-Z’s preferred social platforms, Taking Stock With Teens: 20 Years of Researching U.S. Teens GenZ Insights)

So what does this mean, aside from focusing on visual-first platforms? It also means you may need to adjust your creative strategy.

Gen-Z marketing creative do’s and don’ts

The combination of interests and choice platforms makes tailored Gen-Z creative an important part of your marketing strategy. Here are some dos and don’ts to consider when ideating new assets:

Do: Be Authentic. Flash an ad in front of Gen-Z that is anything but a genuine and accurate representation of your brand and you’re bound to miss out on conversions. Your brand should come off as trustworthy, committed to its values, and capable of delivering on promises.

Do: Respect the range of identities and experiences of Gen-Z users. Despite connecting on shared values, Gen-Z is an incredibly diverse generation of young people. This diversity should be represented in your creative as it pertains to race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc.

Learn more about the importance of building diverse and inclusive creative assets.

Do: Connect with your audience. There are many ways to spark a connection with your audience. You could choose to leave comments enabled on Reddit or challenge viewers on TikTok to duet with your ad. By allowing the users to engage with your advertising, you’re building more than just a connection; you’re creating a community and – dare we say – a vibe.

Don’t: Try too hard. Like all generations, Gen-Z has its own sense of humor and slang. Don’t feel forced to use these as doing so could make your brand feel “fake” to the audience. Unlike past advertising practices, it’s okay to have ads with a lower production value; photoshopping is perceived as inauthentic.

Don’t: Focus only on long-form content. Although longer-form ads can be helpful, and even successful, depending on the platform, Gen-Z is all about quick intake. Keep your ads between 15-30 seconds, or conduct a creative video length test to determine if longer-form content is right for you.

Although these tips and tricks are helpful, you’ll never truly know what works until you try them. With its range of diversity, interests, and experiences, Generation-Z users mark a new era in advertising and open the door to even more creative and audience-targeting possibilities.

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Stephanie Bissonnette