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Advertising to Gen Z: How Marketers Can Avoid Being Disruptive

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    There's a widening gap between how marketers and younger audiences perceive advertising, and it could cost brands a fortune—unless they’re able to find new ways to target Gen Z audiences. Launching a generic digital strategy isn’t enough. Brands need to think outside the box by using digital channels and specific platforms to reach target audience members without bombarding them with ads; 69 percent of Gen Zers avoid ads or skip them altogether according to a 2017 study. 

    This awareness can help strengthen your message and method of communication. One promising way that brands can reach Gen Zers is through intent-based advertising on affinity network marketing platforms. These always-on networks can cut through the noise and clutter of disruptive advertising, offering younger target audiences what they want, when they want it.

    Disruption might sound like a trendy buzzword, but virtually all advertising is disruptive in one way or another. In order to listen, watch, or access certain content, every generation has had to endure unwanted marketing in some way, from Super Bowl commercials to pop-up ads to sponsored content. But Gen Z has had enough. 

    The challenges of advertising to Gen Z 

    Advertisers and marketing managers need to look for ways to reach members of Generation Z without disrupting their lives. Gen Zers value their privacy, likely because they grew up surrounded by technology and connection. These young digital natives aren’t waiting around for in-stream video ads to load so brands can sell their products. Gen Zers view the intrusion of advertising as an invasion of privacy—not to mention a waste of their time. 

    This bombardment of unwanted content had led to the popularity of ad-blocking technology among Gen Z. More than half of Gen Zers utilize some type of ad-blocking software, while 82 percent admit to skipping ads whenever they can while using social platforms such as YouTube.

    Leverage these defining Gen Z traits. Download our Gen Z Marketing Playbook.

    Ad blocking isn’t the only thing that creates challenges for brands when advertising to Gen Z. The popularity of online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify give Gen Zers the luxury of accessing the content they want immediately without having to wade through video ads.

    And if brands didn’t have to overcome enough hurdles when advertising to Gen Z, the cost of digital marketing is also on the rise. Advertisers spent a whopping $356 billion on digital ads last year. That number is only expected to increase, reaching $460 billion by 2024. 

    Disruptive advertising isn’t working when it comes to Gen Z, but many organizations are unsure of how to capture the attention spans of an entire generation of young consumers. Fortunately, there are ways that brands and agencies can stay ahead of the curve.

    "Brands must work harder than ever to convince increasingly cynical Gen Z consumers that their brand and their messages are authentic, not mere window dressing to boost sales or awareness. Brand equity risks being lost in an arms race for ‘likes’ and shares." Josh Rathour, CEO UNiDAYS

    Affinity networks: An innovative way to reach Gen Z

    For brands that find themselves using disruptive advertising as their marketing strategies, partnering with an affinity network can help. When advertising to Gen Z, affinity networks can be used to enhance the lives of a particular audience and demographic in a number of ways. 

    Affinity marketing platforms can:
    • Connect members with brands, products, and services that cater to specific interests and needs.
    • Provide members with exclusive discounts and special offers.
    • Create long-term value and brand loyalty.
    • Create passionate ambassadors that promote products and services. 
    • The audience demographics served by the right affinity partner can be vastly different. What do AARP and AAA have in common? They’re both extremely effective affinity networks.

    Founded in 1958, AARP is famous for securing health insurance for older Americans. Today, it gives seniors access to exclusive offers and discounts that stand to improve their lives.

    Roadside assistance and insurance provider AAA helps connect brands with members by offering special perks and offers. Reaching 60 million members in 2019, the organization even gave auto insurance policy holders 20 percent refunds on their premiums during last year’s COVID-19 nationwide shutdown.

    But affinity networks aren’t limited to healthcare and insurance. If you’re a brand looking to improve its ability to engage members of Generation Z online, you’re in the right place.

    An affinity network created for Gen Z (and Gen Z brands)

    As the world’s largest student affinity network, UNiDAYS has the ability to connect brands to a worldwide student body of more than 142 million and counting. Our platform has the ability to verify about 70 percent of college students across the globe. Our platform records redemption rates (i.e. how many people click to get an individual offer code) from both the UNiDAYS app and our website. Using this data, we can gain valuable insight into how we can tweak a brand’s programs to the audience it wants to engage. 

    The future lies in intent-based marketing rather than disruptive marketing. Affinity groups have the luxury of using our platform and accessing brands in real time, allowing Gen Z consumers to access the content they want, when they want.  

    And we do it all without any commercial breaks.

    Disruptive advertising isn’t working for Gen Z. No, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, despite the massive inconvenience it can cause. But more brands are opting for intent-based, nondisruptive ad campaigns created specifically for Gen Z consumers, which make up a huge portion of today’s online marketing audience. 

    Wish you had a roadmap for how best to connect your brand with Gen Z? Download The Gen Z Marketing Playbook for the ultimate guide to today’s most influential consumers.

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