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Gen Z: Marketing to the ‘Skip Ad’ Generation

Marketing professionals know that you have to approach each generation a little differently. You’re not going to talk to a Boomer the same way you’d talk to a Millennial, and marketing strategies across the board have evolved to reflect changing social trends, technology and consumer behaviours. That’s not news, of course but sometimes, we get a stark reminder of just how far we’ve come.

Case in point: this video of two Canadian children, aged three and six, getting ready to watch cartoons on their parents’ bed. An ad comes on, and the younger child’s irritated expression says it all. “SKIP AD!” He quickly shouts, expecting the commercial to disappear. He’s baffled when it doesn’t work. “It’s not listening to us!” he exclaims, before trying again. “SKIP. AD.”

His sister joins in, adding, “Put on Peppa Pig right now!” Nothing happens. The tiny duo is not amused, resorting to hilarious threats and admonishments as the ad continues to play. “You’re a bad TV….” the older child muses, her brother shaking his head in agreement.

This is a generation that expects (and demands) control of their media intake. Thanks to YouTube and other streaming services, they’ve been able to consciously ignore traditional marketing and advertising techniques – virtually eliminating disruptive ads from their day-to-day lives. Often the children of older Millennials, Gen Z kids know how to avoid being sold to. We’ve seen attention spans in advertising drop year after year, to the point where a 30-second video on Facebook is “too long” for many Millennial viewers – and it’s going even farther. Gen Z doesn’t want to be interrupted by your ads at all, operating within an expectation that this is not only reasonable, but attainable. And they’re right.

To reach Gen Z, brands must integrate seamlessly into their lives. Marketing and advertising efforts have to feel helpful rather than intrusive, and allow some form of control on the part of the consumer. Commercial breaks in shows? Unacceptable – it’s the modern day version of a pop-up ad on a website.

This generation wants on-demand content that is engaging, informative, and available when and where they want to see it. Convenience is king, and there must be a sense of choice and autonomy. This counts for consumerism as much as it does entertainment – product information is something that both Gen Y and Gen Z will search for with specific intent, or come across organically in channels they’re already using. Think social media shares and influencers, smart experiential campaigns, inbound marketing and sincere brand integration.

If you thought Gen Y was media-savvy, Gen Z is going to blow your mind. This is an age group that could navigate tablets and iPhones before they started preschool, and will take coding in school as regular curriculum. They’re smart, they’re mobile, they’re assertive, and they’re not intimidated by media or technology in any area of their lives. The way Gen Z sees it, their time belongs to them alone – and if you want their attention, it’s got to be on their terms.

The consumers of tomorrow have no patience for traditional advertising – and as this video illustrates, there is barely tolerance of it now. If you’re going to sell to these kids, you better know what you’re doing. After all, it’s their time, and you’ve got to be ready when they are.