The study analyses key media consumption patterns, attitudes toward advertising, and responses to specific creative approaches and is based on surveys of more than 23 000 consumers in 39 countries.

AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y and Z highlights that Gen Z are even more passionate about music than millennials (43% like to have ‘always on’ access to music compared to 30% for Gen Y) and more digitally savvy than previous generations. Gen Z are also more difficult to engage - amongst people who skip ads, they skip three seconds faster per ad on average than Gen X.

“Gen Z have grown up in an on-demand world of infinite choice, and this flavours their expectations of advertising. They are much more attracted to ads that allow them to co-create or shape what happens, compared to Gen Y and X, who have a higher preference to link to more information about the brand,” says Duncan Southgate, global brand director of media and digital at Kantar Millward Brown.

AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y and Z identifies a number of key opportunities for brands to connect with Gen Z:

Don’t ignore traditional media

Despite their digitally dominated media consumption, Gen Z can still be impressed by traditional media. While they spend less time with traditional (51% watch an hour or more of TV a day compared to 74% for Gen X), Gen Z are consistently more positive about ad formats such as outdoor, print, cinema, TV and radio ads than standard digital alternatives.

Respect their online space

Within the digital space, Gen Z are more positive than other generations towards mobile rewards video and skippable pre-rolls (which achieve net positive scores of 41% and 15% respectively), but especially damning of invasive ad formats like non-skippable pre-rolls and pop-ups (-36% and -42% respectively).

Creative approach makes a difference

Music, humour, and celebrities all make Gen Z more receptive to advertising. They are also attracted to ads that allow them to co-create or see what happens when they make a decision. They are more positive towards brands that let them vote for something to happen (31% compared to 25% for Gen Y), choose an option (28% compared to 25%), or take decisions (27% compared to 22%). However, these attributes alone are no guarantee of success.

Design matters

An extremely design-conscious consumer, Gen Z will take note of an ad’s aesthetic qualities and appreciate the use of new immersive formats like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Innovation in formats like native ads, sponsored lenses, and sponsored filters all attract much stronger approval with Gen Z than other age groups.

Be even more social

Gen Z are significantly heavier users of social platforms, not just in terms of the time they spend on them but also the number of platforms they visit. These range well beyond Facebook and YouTube and include Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. 36% of Gen Z globally access Instagram several times a day and 24% access Snapchat at the same frequency, compared to 21% and 10% respectively for Gen Y (those aged 20-34) and 9% and 4% for Gen X (those aged 35-49).

Don’t apply the same approach globally

Gen Z is not homogenous and local insights reveal further nuances. In China, for example, Gen Z want music in ads to be upbeat, playful, and fun. By contrast in Germany, Gen Z seeks music that helps them to understand the message without listening to a voiceover.

Using both qualitative and quantitative research techniques combined with ad testing of 31 ads in 10 markets, AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y and Z reveals a generation that, in some areas, are simply a little more extreme in their media attitudes and behaviour, but also have their own distinct traits.

Given their scepticism towards advertising, this makes branded content more attractive to Gen Z. Formats like branded events, social media feeds, and celebrity endorsements all score higher for this group globally than older consumers. Gen Y is more positive about user reviews, social media, and native information, while Gen X prefers brand information.

“No generation is a monolith and Gen Z is no exception. Their upbringing, expectations, and access to technology, however, has created a range of attitudes and behaviours that will challenge marketers. Only where brands take all this into consideration will they be successful in engaging this increasingly critical and fast-emerging group of consumers,” concludes Southgate.

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