Generation Z, currently aged between 5 and 19, were born with the online world at their fingertips; they have experienced no other reality. We’ve heard them all: 56% of teens would rather give up their sense of smell for their phone, 44% of students would rather give up sex to stay connected to technology and 90% of Gen Z said losing connection to the internet would cause them more anxiety than giving up their mobile or texting their friends. Now this is hardly breaking news. However, a recent report into the ad preferences of Gen Z deserves the careful consideration of any marketer trying to reach this youth audience.

 The study, Ad Reaction, has revealed that whilst Gen Z are even more tech-savvy and digitally connected than any previous generation, they have a clear aversion to advertising within the digital environment. Not only does the report highlight a dislike for digital advertising, but significant positivity towards traditional off-line formats, including press and cinema. Interestingly, the channel which received the highest positivity ratings was Out-of-Home (OOH), with a 55% positive receptivity. Not only does OOH have a higher positivity rating amongst Gen Z, the report reveals that several forms of digital advertising, including display and video, are viewed negatively by this audience. 

 Whilst these results may be paradoxical, the findings do not stand in isolation. Over the past 12 months there has been an abundance of studies informing us of a sharp rise in the usage of ad-blockers, even prompting talk of an ‘ad-blocking epidemic’. Whilst there has been an increase across several groups, it is the newest generations who are the most likely to use ad-blocking software. A recent You Gov survey revealed that ad-blocking was highest amongst 18-24s, with almost half admitting they used such software. These findings help us to build a context around the Ad Reaction report. This audience clearly know what they do, and don’t want, from advertisers. They want to experience their favourite brand, and feel as though they are being marketed with, and not marketed to.

With the advent of digital, the beauty of out-of-home comes to the fore. Not only does Digital-Out-Of-Home (DOOH) now account for 38% of the overall OOH market, it continues to push boundaries with cutting edge technologies. A youth audience is able to ‘experience’ OOH advertising, as it effortlessly exists in their physical environment in a non-intrusive way whilst still offering relevant and targeted content. The ability to merge offline with online is further demonstrated through integrated activity between OOH and mobile. A recent report by Outsmart demonstrates the capacity of OOH to drive mobile activity. Generation Z were found to be the most likely group to engage with OOH via their smartphone. This demonstrates how important it is to integrate online and offline marketing campaigns when targeting this audience.

 Given the information we constantly here about Generation Z, it is easy to assume that online advertising is the way forward. However it is clear that OOH, as well as other traditional channels, should still play a central role within the mix, as part of an integrated strategy. Perhaps the very reason Gen Z view online advertising less positively than traditional formats is because they are the first generation to truly ‘own’ the digital world. It is their space, and they want control over how brands communicate with them within this environment. This is not to say that one medium needs to be relinquished for the other, but highlights the need for fully integrated, multi-channel campaigns in order for advertisers to best capture the hearts of Generation Z.