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Super Bowl advertising in the Gen Z era

by John Wheeler
    UNiDAYS x AdAge: Gen Z Marketing Playbook

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    Gen Z places far less value on celebrity endorsements than other generations have. It’s up to brands to tailor their ads to appeal to these younger consumers — even when it comes to the big-budget, star-studded world of Super Bowl ad spots.


    The Big Game has always been the go-to venue for the world’s top brands to spar against each other for the public’s attention. Year after year, we’re blitzed with a barrage of 30-second, five-million-dollar ads that not only seek to thrill, inspire, entertain and delight — but imprint themselves on our psyches.

    In the same way NFL teams see the Super Bowl as the ultimate test of gridiron, brands and agencies see it as a winner-takes-all championship of television salesmanship. Brands and advertisers alike find themselves needing to change their messaging and formats to cater to  Gen Z’s preferences. While that hardly means television is “dead to Gen Z” (in fact quite the contrary, as shown by a recent UNiDAYS study of Gen Z’s global tech consumption habits) it does show that brands ought to strongly consider new ways for television commercials to capture Gen Z’s imagination.

    It might be easy to assume that Gen Z doesn't pay attention to Super Bowl ads. But this isn't categorically the case. However, unlike Boomers, Gen Xers and even Millennials, Gen Zers don’t “buy in” so easily to the star-studded side of the Super Bowl advertising spectacle. They’re far less inclined to swoon at guest appearances by superstars — and much more likely to tune into messages that speak to the causes that matter to them.

    Celebrities aren’t necessarily who Gen Z wants to see in Super Bowl ads

    The net result? More and more brands are shifting their messaging away from tongue-and-cheek pop culture references to addressing real social issues. A prime example of this evolution is a new Kia commercial, set to be aired this upcoming Super Bowl weekend.

    Even from a casual glance, the new Kia spot has “Gen Z” written all over it. No pomp. No celebrities. No gratuitous display of ad-budget bling. Instead, we get an ad promoting an initiative that will donate millions of dollars to young people looking “to get a foothold in higher education.” It’s a riveting Gen Z television advertisement, appealing to Gen Z’s real-life concerns about the costs of education rather than to dream-life fantasies of groundless stardom.

    Super Bowl ads making the case for diversity and tolerance of opinion

    More so than any other generation, Gen Z places an emphasis on diversity, social equality and tolerance. Super Bowl heavyweights like Coca-Cola are taking notice, and focus on  ads that speak to these values.

    This coming Super Bowl Sunday, Coca-Cola will forgo running a 30-second spot for the first time since 2006. Instead, it will run a pre-game ad that emphasizes togetherness, unity and Americans putting aside their differences. In a moment of American history fraught with social and political tensions, the Coca-Cola ad seems designed to appeal to Gen Z with an underlying message of inclusivity.

    Gen Z and the future of Super Bowl TV advertising

    We’re witnessing a sea-change. Slowly but surely, ads confronting practical social issues are gaining ground on ads promoting pure escapism. That change can largely be credited to Gen Z’s growing influence on advertising. You can see it happening everywhere across American advertising — even the at the Super Bowl.

      UNiDAYS x AdAge: Gen Z Marketing Playbook


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