Research Review of: “The Emergence of Generation Z And Its Impact in Advertising: Long-Term Implications For Media Planning and Creative Development." 

Authors: SOUTHGATE, DUNCAN 

Source: Journal of Advertising Research.

Summary

Kantar Millward Brown is a marketing research firm, which conducted a study in the second half of 2016, led by Duncan Southgate, global brand director of media and digital. The global research program was designed to help brands engage across generations, focusing on people ages 16 to 45 years. It examined Gen X, Y and Z. Kantar Millward Brown wanted to see how different media attitudes and behaviors were between all three generations. They set out to understand how much of a challenge these differences would pose to marketers and their creative content and strategies–particularly how different Gen Z will be.

Gen Z is typically defined as being ages 5 to 19, but in this research, just the older members were covered, largely because those participants under the age of 16 required parental permission. But ultimately, Gen Z takes up close to 2 billion of the world’s population right now. There were three study phases in this research: quantitative survey, qualitative survey, and advertisement testing.

Quantitative Survey: This research was conducted in 39 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America. There were 200 interviews within each of the three generations, about 600 interviews per country. The total global sample size was 23,907 interviews. All interviewing was conducted online via Lightspeed Research. Panelists were generally contacted through e-mail, and they used desktop computers, but they could’ve also used their mobile devices. Survey questions addressed participants’ "lifestyle, their attitudes to advertising and content formats, and the factors that made them more open to advertising.”

Qualitative Survey: Online discussion forums were used via desktops and mobile devices in the US, Germany, and China, with about 30 Gen Z participants in each country. The forums explored the differences within this age group.

Advertisement Testing: Quantitative advertisement testing was conducted “for 31 video advertisements (11 on television, 8 on Facebook, and 12 on YouTube) across 10 countries […] Again through online interviewing via Lightspeed, some 100 interviews were completed for each generation (around 300 total interviews per advertisement, for a total global sample size of 8,986 interviews).” This research examined which ads appealed more to the three generations, particularly Gen Z, and why.

The research found that many members of Gen Z “are spending a significant amount of time using mobile devices, whereas fewer of them spend time watching television, listening to the radio, and reading print publications […] 74 percent of Gen Z participants claimed to spend more than one hour per day accessing the web via a mobile device, compared with 66 percent of Gen Y and 55 percent of Gen X participants." 

So right now, mobile devices represent a clear direction as to where marketers must concentrate their efforts. However, Gen Z’s "receptivity to mobile advertisements is very low, even lower than for digital advertisements on desktops…" 

Key Conclusions

The researchers of this study realized that there wasn’t enough "empirical knowledge to definitively prove their findings.” But they believed that the data they collected was important enough to caution marketers not to underinvest in Gen Z. Understanding how different they are has long-term business value. Marketers should invest in creative experimentation because this audience is fast growing.  Yes, the future direction for advertising might be uncertain, but there are "immediate opportunities for marketers to take advantage of these insights.”

There are several important aspects that marketers should keep in mind. Within the digital world, most importantly, the researchers believe that “brands should stop using invasive, nonskippable online formats, which are dis­liked strongly by all generations, especially Gen Z.” If the practice is continued, “an entire new generation may be set against online advertising.”

Additionally, brands should “increase experimenta­tion with innovative online formats, such as mobile-rewards video, native adver­tisements and sponsored lenses, and sponsored filters, which are viewed more positively, especially among Gen Z con­sumers.” 

Lastly, but certainly no less vital, brands also “should be seeking to incorporate interactivity where possible and placing greater strategic importance on music and design within creative-development processes.”

My Opinion

This article and study will definitely be known as one of the first ones that dove into this area of marketing. For now, most brands and companies worry about Gen Y, or Millienials. They’re the ones causing the most problems for marketers. In a way, this study is like a forewarning. Smart marketers will heed the warnings and predictions the data has shown. But the researchers did acknowledge that this study was a point-in-time snapshot. Further longitudinal research will be required, especially to later on compare historical data to newer findings as Gen Z grows up. 

But I believe that this study is a great start so that marketers NOW can start thinking about the next generation of consumers, and what to possibly expect from them. When Gen Z replaces Millenials as THE generation to worry about, I think we can expect most people to panic like chickens with heads cut off (because that’s exactly what’s happening now, in my opinion), but the wiser players in this industry will think more rationally if they prepare ahead of time. 

This study ultimately outlines the importance of knowing your target audience and studying them to the utmost degree. 

Works Cited: Southgate, D. (2017). The Emergence of Generation Z And Its Impact in Advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 57(2), 227-235. doi:10.2501/jar-2017-028

© 2020 by Elena Chaikin