Bridging The Gap: Generational Advertising

by Mike Tyler | April 27, 2015

Generational Advertising: Depending on your generation, your marketing strategy will vary greatly. Between the content itself, graphics, formatting and accessibility—the initiatives must be tailored towards each generation (depending on your target market) to maximize traffic, lower bounce rates and increase the success of campaigns.

Hello ladies. Look at your man. Now back to me. Back to your man. Now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me. But if he stopped using lady scented body wash, and switched to ________ body wash, he could smell like me. What’s in your hand? Back at me. I have it! It’s an oyster with two tickets to that thing that you love! Look again. The tickets are now DIAMONDS!

Can you identify the commercial this text is from? You get bonus points if you read it with his voice in mind.

If you’re part of Generation X or beyond, you likely recognize this from the hilarious ad campaign Old Spice had going on for their body washes. Incredibly effective and hilarious? Check the numbers on the board and see for yourself.

Okay smarty-pants, what famous advertisement this eerie phrase from?

And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.”

If you didn’t know, it’s probably because you weren’t even around in 1984 (but hopefully you got the Orwell book reference). When Apple introduced the Mac computer on January 24th, 1984, their TV advertisement changed the game, with nods of approval from the likes of David Ogilvy.

TV advertisement? Huh? But Netflix is ad-free!

This brings us to the most important point these two ads raise:

Advertising differs greatly among generations – from how it is presented, on what medium, and with unique language set to each demographic.

I mean, your 80-year-old grandmother likely has no idea what “on fleek” means, or even what Snapchat is. And if she does, bonus points for her.

But if you’re born in the 80’s or beyond, you’re being advertised to primarily on digital formats, since you spend approximately 80% of your day looking at screens. Netflix, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook…companies market towards millennials and beyond with the most popular mediums: your smartphones, streaming services, and social media platforms.

There are certain ads that are relevant to baby boomers, and there are certain ads that are relevant to millennials and future generations.

If you’re looking to un-blur the lines of advertising between generations, bridge the gap with these tips and breakdown what methods to use for each demographic, and why!

Photo by Tiago Muraro on Unsplash

Baby Boomers – The Accessibility Age

Born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomers are labelled as such due to being born post World War I and II, and used in a cultural context to allude to the spike in post-war birth rates.

With 76 million consumers, the Baby Boomer demographic is something that can’t be written off – especially with the rise in digital advertising. Being work-centric, goal-oriented and independent, baby boomers have been dissected and analyzed by the marketing analysts of their time, and have been exposed to the highest variety of advertisements in print and digital form.

Basically, their BS meter is at an all time high, and the most important thing with this demographic is trust.

First off, don’t call baby boomers old. Hell, don’t call anyone old – it’s just disrespectful. Amongst Canadian baby boomers, an example of a successful ad:

The golden rule is to keep your content accessible – baby boomers are considerably less likely to be using tablets, laptops and cell phones, so ensure that marketing content is in print format, mailed, and put on television (if that’s a possibility.)

Generation X – The Golden Age

Remember Sanford and Sons? How about the Dirty Harry series? Parachute pants?

If you were a part of Generation X, you likely do. Born between 1965-1981, this generation is fascinating from a marketing perspective; Generation X is likely to tune into older forms of advertising in print, television and others, but also be in tune with digital/social media advertising.

In comparison to baby boomers, Generation X is more technologically adept and flexible with various mediums of advertising, but still heavily value work/life balance, a strong “get-it-done” attitude and an individualistic mindset.

Millenials – The Social Age

Ah yes, milennials. Considered the current target marketing focus of today, millenials are born between 1982-1998, and are the most recent entries into the job-force.

As the technological savants of our time, milennials are constantly updating Twitter statuses, Instagramming their #WCWs, and generally being all over social media, 24/7.

With marketing initiatives targeted towards this group, the format is essential to success. With sites like Buzzfeed, Facebook and Huffington Post that are popular for this bracket, native advertisements are much more successful than traditional banner-ads for click-through ratings and effectiveness!

But more importantly, millennials will be checking in with major social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat as the big four. As such, advertisements within these platforms are more successful for this bracket, as well as companies that utilize these platforms as a part of their marketing campaigns, like using a trending Twitter hashtag, or commenting on an Instagram photo in the hopes of winning a contest!

Take the launch of Tidal, for example – that had many famous musicians like Kanye West, Madonna and Daft Punk tweet out about the streaming service, and change their social profile photos blue for support.

Examples of advertisements from companies that nailed the millennial demographic include:

With Apple, Youtube and Netflix being the go-to’s for millenials (#GameofThrones), the big themes for successful advertising are authenticity, personalization and promoting altruistic values.

Think about the West Jet or TD Canada Trust commercials that didn’t advertise products, but illustrated their brand as ambassadors for good, with altruistic values.

Because hey, we all love the warm, fuzzy feeling of giving back.

Here Comes Generation Z

What does the future bring for advertising initiatives?

Who knows. However, we can predict that social media marketing will still be the major player in advertising, and consumers will still tend towards ads that are authentic, feel personal and start social dialogues.

Coming out of the economic collapse of 2008 and entrenched in a DIY culture, Generation Z are adept researchers with access to crowdsourcing from the online community for vast amounts of information.

Instagram and Snapchat are expected to be key players among Generation Z with social advertising. In fact, take a look at how brands like Supreme have been using Snapchat to market to Gen Z to turn around business!

  • 93% of Gen Z say they visit YouTube at least once a week.
  • Gen Z also uses Twitter (26%), Google+ (26%), and Instagram (17%) on a weekly basis, but less often.
  • Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural of any generation in the U.S. — 55% are Caucasian, 24% are Hispanic, 14% are African-American and 4% are Asian.
  • Having an average 8-second attention span, you can imagine that visuals and screens will be much more effective than text heavy advertisements!


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