Home IMJ Features Opinion: Social Media Ads – Gen-Z’s Biggest Life-Hack

Opinion: Social Media Ads – Gen-Z’s Biggest Life-Hack

Pictured: Peter Shannon, MD Simply Social

Have you ever wondered why so many brands are switching to digital social media platforms, like TikTok and Instagram, as their primary advertising mediums? Are you one of those people who criticise the new generation of creatives for their choice of advertising platform? After all, aren’t traditional linear TV ads what’s worked well for decades? Or are, as Peter Shannon asks, are you just stuck in 2010?

Picture this – a world where social media isn’t used to target Gen-Z consumers. Silly right? Well get this: in recent years, social media has become a place for brands to grow their image and flourish amongst targeted, young audiences. After all, how many Gen-Z’s aren’t scrolling through their phones while TV advertisements play in the background? Social media platforms have become the perfect place to target the perfect consumer, all backed by some pretty serious data. In fact, in 2023, linear TV’s total viewing dropped below 50%. However, that’s not to say linear TV doesn’t hold a significant, and wide audience that should be overlooked.

Regardless, linear TV ads are becoming increasingly less popular among brand advertisers as many have started to prioritise streamers and digital media platforms. This is due to high cost of production, airtime, limited targeting and inability to measure ROI on TV commercials. With that said, addressable TV advertising and CTV ads are becoming a more attractive option to brands over linear TV ads. This is due to the ability to better target the audience and measure campaign performance. However, full-length, traditional style ads do not mix well with the era of dancing cat memes and the shortening attention spans of Gen-Z, at least not on social media platforms.

With Gen-Z turning away from linear TV, and towards streaming platforms like Netflix, and Disney+, adding ads to shows and movies is an alternative option to target younger audiences, but would this lead to declining subscriptions? While traditional TV ads aren’t going anytime soon, on BVODs, streamers and platforms like YouTube, the trend seems to be to move to digital. Sticking to posting short and snappy reels or ads on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram seems like the best bet for many creative agencies, disguising relatable content and memes as brand advertisements to gain the attention of Gen-Z. You may think this is just the end product of creative agencies trying to be cool and edgy. Are Gen Z workers really that lazy that we can’t come up with a full-length cinematic linear TV advertisement? Or are we just working smarter, not harder?

Studies show that Gen Z is roughly 12% more likely to pay attention to social media ads compared to the overall adult population. So, if it’s Gen-Z you want to target, I’d say those edgy creative agencies are doing a great job. However, the move to social media can be tricky business for some brands, as Gen-Z knows popular platforms inside out, and may recognise adverts disguised as trends. Regardless, due to user data collection and analytics, social media ads have the advantage of showing up to more relevant consumers than linear TV ads with a wide reach. Social media ads can target specific demographic groups, based on online behaviours and interests. This paves the way for brands to grow their consumer base in a way that TV ads could never do. This means, in order to target consumers, creative agencies need to be familiar with social media trends, and have a broad understanding of data collection and analytics, which doesn’t sound so lazy does it? The move to social media for brands who are familiar with traditional advertising can be a big jump, but inevitably worth it with some hard work.

Although Gen-Z pays more attention to social media ads, it’s worth noting that the general adult population pays more attention to TV ads than social media ads by roughly 10%, according to studies. Does this mean media agencies shouldn’t completely abandon traditional linear TV advertisements, and instead, work in tandem with social media teams and experts to grow brand awareness among all demographics? For example, brands paying for airtime of TV advertisements during big events, like sporting or live events which attract a wide demographic, in conjunction with targeting younger audiences or niche demographics could be a great option for creative agencies moving forward. Further research is needed to find the true effectiveness of combining both traditional and contemporary mediums versus using only one. But for now, one thing is for sure: TikTok ads are one of the best ways to target the young demographic, and one of Gen-Z creative agency workers’ biggest life hacks yet.

Peter Shannon is managing director of the Dublin-based agency Simply Social

Previous articleBusiness Plus Announces Partnership with The Curragh Racecourse
Next articleHeineken Drop Kicks New Trainer Collaboration With Simon Zebo & Barbara Bennett