Worlds Apart: Can You Really Advertise Effectively to the Over 50’s and Gen Z at the Same Time?

By Megan Ashdown, Digital Account Director, The Kite Factory

It’s no secret that we live in a polarised society, with generational divides spanning politics, culture, and economics to name a few pressure points. The popularity of social media means that it’s never been easier to voice your discontent – with Gen Z publicly calling out Baby Boomers for destroying the planet and eliminating the chance of them owning a home. Meanwhile older generations are dubbing younger generations “snowflakes”, scolding them for having unrealistic aims for the future.

So, can you really talk to such polarised audiences at the same time? The answer is yes – if you approach the solution through the lenses of Heart, Art and Science.

Heart – Find the Similarities and use them to your advantage!

While generational divides can feel all-encompassing, due to the turbulent socio-political-economic-EVERYTHING part of history we’re all navigating, divides between generations aren’t a new phenomenon.

There are always similarities within these audiences, you just need to look.

When it comes to media campaigns, audience research is imperative. Is there a common point that can unite the two generations within the campaign? Shared values or shared opinions? Despite what the media tells you – these can exist. It’s not impossible to generate an overarching, efficient campaign that speaks to all ages. Remember that we’re all human and find the heart of your campaign that can speak to everyone.

Art – Creative Tailoring

Tailoring creative is a crucial element of tactical marketing, especially in digital. You can’t put the same ad on TikTok and Meta and expect it to perform well on both – it won’t happen.

Our latest whitepaper Older, Wiser, Richer and Disengaged revealed that the UK’s over 50’s population neither appreciates nor enjoys advertising. While a disheartening blow to advertisers, it did reveal the key takeaway the older generation no longer finds advertising funny.

Creative agency BMB analysed each gold award-winning Cannes Lions campaign from the last decade and identified a significant shift away from campaigns with humour after 2012. Instead humour was overtaken by purpose, likely to appeal to the socially savvy Gen Z.

The under 24s are three times more likely to take pleasure in advertising in general. By tailoring your creative to be funnier – which the over 50’s demographic responds well to specifically – we can tick boxes with both audiences (and make an entertaining advert to boot!)

In addition to tailoring creative to be funnier, you can also tailor creative to be more personalised. The advertising industry has a great deal of unconscious bias – the average age of an employee in a media agency is 32-years-old. This means that unless we actively challenge our biases, we will naturally create and promote campaigns that only a younger generation will respond positively to.

The knock-on effects of this are clear – while the over 55s watch twice as much television as the average adult, they are 30% less likely to see themselves in the commercials.

The solution to this is obvious. Showcase each demographic in your advert, give Gen Z and Baby Boomers a reason to relate to your product and reap the benefits.

Science – Platform tailoring

Audience analysis reveals that different generations fundamentally gravitate towards different platforms. Younger Millennials and Gen Z skew digital, and largely towards emerging platforms such as Snapchat, Tik Tok and Instagram,  whereas older audiences are more likely to be found on more traditional channels such as TV or Radio.

This makes display an excellent channel to engage Gen Z and the Over 50s simultaneously…we’re all on the internet!

You can use display to hit the over 50’s with value and interest targeting – and utilise the same tactics with your younger generation, just by tailoring those values and interests accordingly. Test your audiences, keep an eye on the age and demographic performance – is it working?

If not, use platform discrepancies to your advantage. There is no reason why advertisers can’t target a campaign to the under 25’s on Tik Tok and use the same campaign across Radio for the over 50’s. Referring to the first point – as long as creative is all encompassing, you can make your media buying sing for you.

Common ground between Gen Z and Baby Boomers may seem worlds apart, but as advertisers we can use our craft to bring them closer together and achieve powerful, effective campaigns simultaneously – just by relying on the Heart, Art and Science.