Gen Z Advertising

December 21, 2021

By: Hannah Yang

Most of the ads that I encounter today are through social media and internet platforms—YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and others. Out of those, almost half of them are annoying, clogging my feed with irrelevant products or lazy advertising. In an age when Gen Z are on social media almost five hours a day, how do you make ads that stand out amongst the clutter? 

While I usually skip any ads I can, sneaky ads are harder to avoid. This means you should be incorporating your product naturally into content, most likely through social media influencers. Because Gen Z’s definition of celebrity is broad, influencer ads are just as (if not more) effective than celebrity ads. The product may seem more trustworthy or attainable to a normal Gen Zer. It’s kind of like word-of-mouth recommendations, just on a larger scale. 

Gen Z also trusts influencers to own or advertise things that will fit certain lifestyles or “aesthetics.” There are many communities and identities within Gen Z, and if you’re trying to sell something to a niche group, a good way to advertise your product is to have influencers (whether implicit or explicit) within those communities use your product. This is how many smaller Gen-Z-owned independent companies gain a following: they’ll send their products to Gen-Z TikTokers (huge following not needed) that match their brand image, and the TikTokers’ followers will learn about the product. 

Gen Z also likes transparency, so an upfront ad isn’t always annoying. The one catch is, it’ll work better if coming from a fellow Gen Zer. We have a healthy distrust of celebrities and big companies, so having a regular person show the product might work better for Gen Z. Even though an #ad might deter some people, ads where the product is well explained can gain Gen Z’s trust.  

In terms of the best mode for advertising, larger platforms like YouTube will reach a wider range of people. But when you’re trying to target a certain group of Gen Zers, it’s easier to find communities on sites like TikTok and Instagram. Instagram is one of the slower social medias, in terms of trends and viral content. TikTok is much faster, with products going viral and selling out within days. The trends aren’t just limited to the big cities. When the Burt’s Bees tinted lip balms went viral on TikTok, they were sold out at my local Target. 

As always, Gen Z can tell you best what ads they’ll skip or watch. Work with Adolescent and their Gen-Z team to learn how to better advertise to Gen Z. 

Best Practices for Advertising to Gen Z

Below are just some tips for how to advertise to Gen Z with success. The best thing to do is partner up with a Gen Z advertising agency like Adolescent Content.

Prioritize Values

When Gen Z engages with a new brand on TikTok or other social media, they pay attention to the company’s values. They don’t just want a good product, but they want to support companies that do good in the world.

Almost half of Gen Z says they want to support brands that are transparent and trustworthy, so make sure and put your company’s values front and center! Just don’t pretend to prioritize activism and then don’t follow through - they will know, and this can get you blocked and blacklisted. Gen Z are experts at canceling brands they don’t trust!

Communicate the Gen Z Way

Brands targeting Gen Z audiences should use the language that Gen Z speaks and understands. Many businesses get this wrong, and Gen Z can tell they are only trying to relate, and the communication is inauthentic. This will turn Gen Z right away.

Working with Gen Z advertisers can make sure your engagements use the right words, jokes, acronyms, and more that slay with Gen Z.

Work with Gen Z Influencers and Creators

You know who Gen Z trusts? Other Gen Zers! One advertising strategy is to enlist the influencers and creators that already speak to this audience. One-fourth of Gen Z women say they look to influencers as their #1 source of product reviews and suggestions, so collaborating with the right creators and influencers can be a foolproof strategy if your brand does it right.

Be Entertaining

While Gen Z loves authentic and meaningful messaging, they also want to be entertained by advertising. Gen Z has short attention spans, and if something is boring, they will scroll right by without a second thought. To catch - and hold - their attention, the advertising content must be immediately eye-catching and entertaining.

Humor goes a long way with Gen Z, and this audience loves a brand with a sense of humor. Gen Z audiences love a company that doesn’t take itself too seriously - and one that can even poke fun at itself in ads.

Putting boring content on Gen Z platforms is throwing money and time out the window. Having ads or collaborating with influencers who are funny and entertaining is an important factor when connecting with Gen Z.

Choosing platforms

You can have the best content out there for Gen Z, but it doesn’t do you any good if Gen Z doesn’t see it! Gen Z uses different social media platforms than other generations, and you can waste a lot of money by placing Gen Z-targeted ads on platforms you might prefer, like Facebook or Twitter.

Instead, the top platforms for Gen Z are TikTok and Instagram, so you want to connect with influencers or place your ads on those apps.

Finding a balance between being authentic, caring, value-driven, funny, entertaining, and trustworthy can be a challenge - but Gen Z has high standards! Work with a team of Gen Z advertisers who know how to strike this balance for you.