With every generational cohort turnover comes a shift in values and lifestyles. Out of all various cultural industries, perhaps it is advertising most of all that feels the pressure to keep up and evolve with the times. Advertising is a fast-paced business that must keep abreast of the latest technology and trends to remain relevant and to deliver competitive content for their clients. So what are the developments and challenges facing advertising today?
Before we assert that, a quick history lesson.
Advertising came into being with industrial manufacturing. With so many new goods being produced at huge scales, business owners needed new ways to spread the word of their products. However, advertising back then was primarily explanatory and instructional: It explained what the product was, and how to use it.
Then with the 20th-century, advertising took a turn. It began playing on the psychological and emotional levels of consumers. It began in the 20s and reached its peak in the Mad Men era of the 50s and 60s. Ads no longer needed to explain anything. Instead, they embodied values and promised a lifestyle. Cars weren’t practical machines to get you to and from work; they are what makes you appear cool, successful and desirable.
But today, the dominant consumer is the Millennial (born 1981-2000) and even more so, Generation Z, or the Zoomers. One major difference between these two cohorts: Millennials grew up with big, clunky computers and the internet in their homes; Zoomers are growing up with tiny, powerful computers and the internet in their pockets.
Gen Z expects a different form of advertising. They can see through the BS of “sex sells” so popular since the 60s. They are less interested in knowing about the number of benefits of a specific product, and instead, want to trust and love the brand. For this reason, they expect authenticity from advertisement, which is the basis for forming longer-lasting trusting relationships between a consumer and a company.
One of the Gen Z developments is that advertising is no longer an isolated medium from other communication domains like entertainment or information (edutainment, or entercation). The lines between an actor, an influencer and a spokesperson are getting blurred away. Many digital media companies are picking up on this. QYOU Media, for example, helps brands reach those Zoomers by combining content creators, artists and influencers, and creating short, powerful digital content for mobile and other digital media. Its leadership team is exemplary of this modern blend. For example, one of its founders, G. Scott Paterson, has a background in everything from film production, software development, and financial services.
Whereas in the past, the division between, say, TV shows and commercials was clear-cut, today we live in a digital media ocean where every piece of content serves multiple purposes. From product placement to influencer-turned-actors, those born after 1990 are highly skilled at synthesizing valuable content from fluid and overlapping media streams. And they’re doing it all through digital means, mostly via that supercomputer in their pockets.
For those brands looking to connect with these Zoomers and influence their tastes, you need to meet them on their turf and speak their language. You can’t buy authenticity outright, but there sure are a lot of media firms who can help any brand gain that influential edge.