Audience Deep Dive: Generation Z
by Cat Hausler6 min read
Many Gen Zers are now adults with an increasing amount of purchasing power.
Forty-six percent of this audience consumes long-form TV content on a regular basis.
Nearly half of Gen Z consumers spend more than three hours a day on various social media platforms.
Generation Z loses active attention for ads after just 1.3 seconds.
Half of Gen Z consumers buy products through social media platforms.
Purchasing Power Shifts As Gen Z Consumers Move into Adulthood
Generation Z is a hot topic among advertisers right now. Ages 11-26, this consumer group accounts for 20% of the population. And, as many Gen Zers are now adults with an increasing amount of purchasing power, they have become a sought after audience for brands from a variety of industries. eMarketer estimates that by 2025, Generation Z will account for more digital purchases than those made by members of Gen X¹.
With this in mind, it’s vital that advertisers have an understanding of this unique generation with a deep affinity for social media.
They Watch Long-Form Content Too
While Gen Z’s interest in short-form content is well known (more on this below), this isn’t the only type of media the group enjoys. In fact, close to half (46%) of this audience consumes long-form TV content on a regular basis². Concerning how Generation Zers watch, streaming came out on top—78% of these consumers view content via various streaming services at least once a week. In comparison, 45% of Gen Zers reported that they watch linear TV weekly.
Advertisers take note—there is a difference between “older” and younger Gen Z members in regards to long-form vs. short-form content consumption. Eighteen to 24 year olds said that they watch streaming content on platforms like Netflix and Disney+ more than half of the time, while consumers aged 13-17 reported that they spend less time (47%) viewing this type of media.
Horowitz Research Chief Revenue Officer and Insights and Strategy Lead Adriana Waterston expanded on this insight³: “Engagement with short form does not totally cannibalize long-form viewing. Young people today are still watching professionally produced TV content, just less of it compared even to older audiences within their generational cohort,” Waterson said. “As younger people’s lifestyles change as they enter new life stages and as they develop different interests, deeper engagement with long-form content across a range of genres will follow.”
Social Media Influences Gen Z Behaviors
It’s no secret that this generation loves and spends a lot of time on social media. However, the actual numbers may surprise you—nearly half of Gen Z consumers spend more than three hours a day on various social media platforms⁴.
YouTube, TikTok and Instagram Reign Supreme
Not all social media is created equal though—YouTube, TikTok and Instagram solidly hold the top spots for Gen Z’s favorite platforms. Just over twenty-five percent of Generation Zers say YouTube is their top choice of social media, while TikTok came in a close second with a flat 25% and Instagram in third with 20%. Facebook—which has greatly decreased in popularity in recent years—was fourth, but with only 8% of Gen Z respondents claiming it as their favorite platform.
While YouTube came out on top with Gen Z, TikTok and Instagram have had a notable effect on this consumer group. According to Google data from July 2022, roughly 40% of US 18-24 year olds⁵ leverage TikTok or Instagram as their first place to search for information—as opposed to using an engine like Google. While TikTok doesn’t offer paid search ads yet, brands should be mindful of this when developing their Gen Z-focused advertising strategies.
Gen Z’s Short Attention Span
Another potential impact of social media on Gen Z behavior is how it has affected the group’s attention span. A recent study by Yahoo and OMD Worldwide reported that Generation Z “loses active attention for ads after just 1.3 seconds”⁶. This can likely be credited to what Gen Z has become accustomed to consuming on social media—short form TikTok videos that are meant to be quickly scrolled through, the ever-changing Explore page on Instagram, YouTube’s skippable ads, etc.
What does this mean for advertisers? Well, they need to find effective ways to immediately engage this consumer group. Here are some tips from eMarketer on how to counter Gen Z’s short attention span:
- Be prepared to react quickly to pop culture moments and changing interests
- Don’t use inflexible processes or rely on high-end production expectations
They Make Purchases Via Social Media
Gen Zers aren’t just spending a sizable amount of time on social media, they’re actually making purchases there. Half of Generation Z consumers said that they buy products through social media platforms. While Millennials reported about the same, older generations fell well below that.
How and Where Generation Z Chooses to Spend
It’s been widely understood that a primary driver of Gen Z’s purchasing decisions was brand alignment with social values⁷. However, recent data would suggest that the matter isn’t cut-and-dried. Despite more than half of Generation Z consumers expressing that they would rather buy from advertisers who have similar social values to their own, when looked at on a net basis, a higher share of Baby Boomers and Millennials said the same⁸.
Nevertheless, this consumer group still gravitates towards some values-first brands. For example, an AdAge poll from October 2022 found that Planned Parenthood came in third on the list of brands who had gained the most affinity with Generation Z from Q2 to Q3 of 2022⁹. Ahead of Planned Parenthood were Beats by Dre and Jersey Mike’s.
Here’s how the top 10 rounded out:
If anything, this list reinforces the fact that Gen Z is multidimensional when it comes to brand affinity.
Influencer Marketing Makes an Impact
Another key insight that advertisers should be aware of—influencer marketing goes a long way with these consumers. Nearly every brand on the list above enlisted the help of celebrities for at least one campaign in the last year. For example, Beats by Dre tapped Kim Kardashian for a wireless headphone launch, while Coach brought on Lil Nas X as a brand ambassador. The effects of this type of marketing are powerful—41% of consumers ages 18-29 reported that they bought something after seeing the product promoted by an influencer¹⁰.
With more than 68 million Gen Zers living in the U.S.¹¹, this consumer group should be top of mind for brands, especially as it gains more purchasing power. In order to best connect with members of Generation Z and drive conversions, it’s key that advertisers understand the ways in which social media influences their behaviors.
This is particularly important for brands who choose to advertise on TV. Considering Gen Z’s short attention span, paired with the fact 83% of consumers aged 18-34 use a second screen while watching television, advertisers need to focus on ways to efficiently engage this audience. Multi-channel advertising strategies with various touch points could be a good option for brands looking to best drive their messaging home.
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1 Data Drop: 5 Charts You Need to Understand Gen Z in 2023 (eMarketer)
2 Focus Generation Next (Horowitz Research)
3 Horowitz: Gen Z Watching Both Professional TV, Non-TV Content (Multichannel News)
4 How Gen Z consumes media in 5 charts (eMarketer)
8 For Gen Z, the Future of Corporate Activism Is Local First, Global Second (Morning Consult)
10 For shopping, phones are common and influencers have become a factor – especially for young adults (Pew Research Center)