IBC2019: Digital natives are the leading catalysts for disrupting the way content is consumed and created. Alana Foster speaks with Generation Z experts to debunk the challenges and explore the opportunities offered by this market.
Generation Z (Gen Z), defined by those who were born between 1996 and 2010 spends an average of just over three hours a day per person watching videos online, not to mention the additional socialising, research and entertainment consumed.
Gen Zers grew up with an internet connection, knew how to operate a smart phone before they entered double digits, are choosing social media over old media and have all but abandoned traditional TV viewing.
They spend as much time on their smart phones as older generations do watching TV, according to research by Business Insider Intelligence. The majority of Gen Z’s prefer streaming services over traditional cable options and favour “snackable” content designed for consumption on a smart phone or tablet.
Also, Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse and the largest generation in history to embrace diversity and inclusion and they expect this to be reflected in the content they consume.
Move over Millennials
The first wave of Gen Z is set to enter the workforce next year and are estimated to be the largest consumer population in the US by 2026.
This consumer-led shift is forcing traditional media companies to introduce and adopt new ways to engage and connect with Gen Z, otherwise there is little doubt they’ll be left behind by the era of influencers.
“Gen Z are known as the “social Generation” so it’s no surprise that the most effective way to reach and engage with them is on social media,” says Andy Fidler partner and co-founder of The Hook Group.
“Gen Z will split their time on social and share different content by platform. Brand, content creators and influencers need to cater for each one.
“Above all, for Gen Z, trusted social publishers and social influencers are the driving force of new media consumption.”
The Hook Group is a London-based social marketing agency and media brand that aims to combine content, marketing, influencer and commerce expertise to scale brands and make them famous on social channels.
Its mission is to engage youth through its entertainment channel that boasts 10 million fans and strives to make its fans laugh or be inspired by its award-winning content.
- Read more: Capturing the eyeballs of Generation Z
Influencer marketing is the fastest growing customer acquisition tool, Fidler explains. The offering targets distribution and the ability to develop strong relationships with fans where the content truly resonates with its specific audience.
This direct audience engagement could be a vital consideration for the industry as Gen Z moves into the workforce.
Beano Studios is a new content business, driven by insight, which creates, curates and delivers mischievous entertainment for kids, teens and families worldwide.
Beano Studios chief digital officer Martin Ashplant tells IBC365: “Our research shows that this group are more than digital natives. They have grown up with digital as a full part of their lives and are natural masters of it as a channel – they are data savvy, can spot fake news and don’t take online information at face value.
“In short, they are streets ahead of their millennial parents and older siblings when it comes to digital.”
Working with its audience, Ashplant explains the key motivators for its seven to 14-year-old consumers is to be self-determining, to perfect something and to interact with peers.
He adds: “If media companies don’t tick these boxes, they run the risk of being seen as irrelevant to this generation.”
A generation of streamers
The average Gen Zer spends about 3.4 hours a day online watching videos, according to a report by Wibbitz, a video creation platform. It said this generation sees YouTube as its favourite destination to watch entertainment videos, with Instagram and Facebook close behind.
The Goat Agency co-founder Arron Shepherd explains to IBC365: “They engage in content to follow trends, create popular videos and grow their social capital. Gen Z are socially native and natural content creators thanks to their constant access to social media sites such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram.”
The Goat Agency was founded by three Millennials aged 31, 28 and 25 that have built the business by hiring based on attitude, knowledge and potential over the merits highlighted on a CV.
It prides itself on being comprised of a team of innovators, making decisions in real time based on algorithmic changes and last-minute calls from clients.
Its business acumen is to deliver performance-driven guaranteed results to legitimise and professionalise a disjointed industry.
“Cameras are now in the hands of the consumers; they are controlling the narrative online and their voice continues to grow,” Shepherd continues.
“This will then bleed into other content creation. Billboards will only be relevant if they are shared online, TV programmes will be only as good as their online conversation and if your strategy isn’t social-first it will not succeed.”
Platform companies must look to apply new technologies that humanise the digital experience, creating balanced benefits to both consumers and companies.
According to research from Cognizant, about one-third of Gen Z respondents said they viewed the future of the internet as more negative than positive, compared to 21% of millennials and 28% of Gen Xers.
Among the younger Gen Z respondents aged between 15 and 18, this number was even higher at 37%.
Fidler says: “Everyone is talking about TikTok right now. It was one of the most popular apps of 2018 with over one billion downloads and users spending an average of 46 minutes per day in the app.
“Influencer marketing isn’t necessarily all that commonplace on the platform at the moment although some big brands like Coca-Cola, Google and Universal Pictures have been working with popular TikTok influencers on campaigns.”
TikTok is likened to Vine mixed with Instagram, a short-form video platform for entertainment and socialising.
Fidler explains: “The platform is yet to launch monetisation capabilities for influencers, but it has started testing native ads. There are also reports that it may soon include better targeting options and measurement tools.”
- Read more: Interview with Michael Nathanson
Challenging the status quo
In a recent report from Mediakix, research shows that 85% of Gen Z’s learn about new products on social, with 67% preferring ‘real people’ in ads and 71% of the generation.
The research puts Gen Z’s attention span at eight seconds on average compared with Millennials who average 12 seconds. This shows Gen Z viewers have a preference for bite-sized viewing across the most widely used platforms in YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and more recently TikTok.
Despite Facebook ageing up, it still remains the world’s favourite across the board for all demographics.
However, as content evolves and is uploaded to new platforms quicker than ever, where does compliance play?
Shepherd explains: “Peer reviews, copyright technology and the ASA continue to support compliant content on platforms.”
While, Ashplant adds: “Beano.com operates within both Coppa and GDPR for kids regulations which are required for any online offering with a young audience.
“This, of course, presents challenges but this is a small price to pay to create an environment trusted by kids and their parents alike.”
The other challenge for content and platform owners is the uplift of ad-blocking software which has increased 51% in the past 12 months, according to Fidler. “Gen Z’s are even more conscious of how their data is being used nowadays,” he adds.
“One of the biggest challenges facing brands and marketers is to ensure that they’re targeting the right people with the right messaging at the right time.”