Mobile Marketing

Skeptic But Expectant: Marketing to Generation Z

A heightened skepticism for traditional advertising combined with a higher authority for branded content, make marketing to Generation Z on mobile tough for marketers to understand. But this fresh generation of mobile users are growing up, and joining the mass of shoppers across a wide variety of products and categories. Kantar Millward Brown published an AdReaction study: Engaging Generation X, Y, & Z last month marking the difference between Generation Z and those that arrived sooner, stating this generation is rising up, and challenging brands to connect with them more effectively. This survey spans 23,000 consumers across 39 countries. We’ve summarised their findings:

  • 43% of Generation Z like to have ‘always on’ access to music, compared to 30% of millennials (Generation Y).
  • Skip ad’ rates three seconds faster than millennials make Generation Z more difficult to engage with.
  • 51% watch one hour or more TV per day, or 23% less than Generation X.
  • 42% of Australians ages 16-19 respond positively to outdoor advertising, while 52% respond positively to cinema ads, and 26% responding well to TV.
  • Only 23% of Australia’s Generation Z respond positively to desktop display, desktop video, and online search ads, while mobile display ads garner a 21% positive response, and mobile video 19%.
  • Australians are more positive towards skippable pre-rolls (Gen Z at 40%) and mobile rewards video (43%), but are damning of intrusive ad formats such as popups (-42%) and non-skippable pre-roll (18% positive response rating).
  • 38% of Australians ages 16-19 respond positively to branded content, 40% respond positively to social newsfeeds, and 41% respond positively to social celeb content.
  • Creative topics such as humour, music, and celebrities make Generation Z more receptive to advertising, as well as ads that allow them to co-create or see what happens when they make a decision.
  • They’re more positive towards brands that let them vote for something to happen, make decisions, and choose options.
  • They recognise ad aesthetics and appreciate more immersive formats such as VR and AR. They approve strongly of native ad formats and sponsored lenses and filters.
  • 36% of Gen Z globally access Instagram several times per day, while 24% access Snapchat the same amount, compared to 21% and 10% for Gen Y and 9% & 4% for Gen X.
  • 74% spend more than one hour per day on their mobile device, compared to 66% for Gen Y and 55% for Gen X, while Gen Z’s TV, radio, and print consumption is significantly less than previous generations.
  • A bigger passion for movies and music make ads placed in these contexts more powerful, as 39% of Gen Z saying music makes them feel more positive toward advertising, and 38% saying movies have the same effect (both figures are 10% higher than Gen X).
  • This age group prefer ads less than 10 seconds even more than previous generations, compared to Generation X, who are more tolerant of videos up to 20 seconds in length.
  • Gen Z are more likely (31% vs. 30% & 22%) to have ad blocking software on desktop devices than Generations Y & X, but are no more likely to have installed mobile ad blocking apps than older consumers (1% difference).


While no generation sets habits in stone, Generation Z’s upbringing, access to technology, and risen expectations create a range of behaviours and attitudes to challenge the state of mobile marketing. Brands that take all of these contextual, conscientious decisions into consideration will be able to engage successfully and convert expectantly. This increasingly critical fast-paced group of consumers have a buying power all to themselves, with a heightened skepticism towards traditional advertising and a sensitive favor for attractive branded content. Where Generation X preferred brand information, Generation Z knocked tradition, favoring celebrity endorsements, social media, native information, and user reviews. And when confronted with ads they don’t like, 16-19 year-olds tend to multitask instead of viewing these ads. In this study, all generations surveyed were found to draw firmer lines around places where they feel advertising is inappropriate.


Previous Nielsen research suggests Generation Z are more susceptible to mobile marketing. Young users, Nielsen’s 2016 Connected Device Report stated, were more likely to give up personal information, interact with brand marketing, and act on offers. While promotions and coupons are still top motivators of Gen Z making a purchase, targeted offers are what appeal most. It seems convenience and relevance are both key motivators – younger demographics don’t want to be redirected to a website or rerouted from the app they’re using to view full-length content.

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“Gen Z have grown up in an on-demand world of infinite choice, and this flavours their expectations of advertising. They are much more attracted to ads that allow them to co-create or shape what happens, compared to Gens Y and X, who have a higher preference to link to more information about the brand.” – Duncan Southgate, Global Brand Director, Media & Digital at Kantar Millward Brown.

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Creating advertising that works across various generations is tough, and this generation, who are known for clicking ‘skip ad’, is particularly tricky. While Generation Z are mobile-first, this data shows it’s not the only way to reach them, and pairing mobile devices with other formats can amplify your mobile creative and empower your mobile strategy. By respecting their privacy and ‘extreme’ attitudes towards media, brands can capitalise on these distinct traits and forge lasting relationships.

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