74% of Generation Z and Millennials tired of being social ad targets

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 17 May, 2016
View comments Social Media
A new study carried out by Harris Poll for Lithium Technologies has found that younger generations – including the lucrative millennial consumer- find targeted social media ads a big turnoff.


The research was carried out across 2,374 US consumers of differing generations: 

  • Generation Z (16 – 19 years old)
  • Millennials (20 – 39 years old)
  • Generation X (40 – 59 years old)
  • Baby boomers (60 – 70 years old)

The results showed a dislike of brand targeting on social media platforms – an action which is causing users to abandon some networks. When polled, 74% of Generation Z and millennials said they did not like being targeted by adverts via their social media feeds. 

57% said they are so turned off by adverts appearing in their feeds, that they have either stopped using certain social media platforms altogether or cut down on their usage. 

Commenting on the results, Rob Tarkoff, President and CEO of Lithium Technologies said, “Pushing out ads on social media is the surest way for brands to alienate consumers, especially the younger generations who make up more than 50 percent of the population. That’s a lot of purchasing power, and it’s only going to grow as these generations reach their prime spending years. The promise of social technologies has always been about connecting people, not shouting at them, and the brands that don’t do this risk their very existence.”

For marketers worried by the decline in advert effectiveness, it’s worth noting that across all touch points, Generation Z and the millennials were more trusting of information they found online than their elders. 

  • 54% of younger people trust social networks, compared to just 32% of the older generation  
  • 61% of younger people said they trusted online communities compared with 45% of older adults 
  • 50% of younger people trusted blogs, in comparison with just 30% of older adults

Instead of broadcasting to customers, these results suggest an alternate method of being present in the right places and taking a holistic, community driven approach rather than advertising, should be adopted. 

One of the key takeaways from these figures is that younger generations have a high level of trust. Their dislike of brand targeting is not based on a lack of confidence with the medium, rather a preference to seek out information themselves. It could even be that this level of trust has actually driven the digital native generations to move away from ads, as they have become more self-assured in their online environments.

While they say they are tired of being targeted and less receptive to adverts, 35% of 16 – 39 year olds also said they trusted celebrity endorsements. More than half trust social networks and one in two trust blogs.

These figures suggest the consumers tired of ads may be receptive to influencer marketing – which is arguably a type of targeted advert. They may not wield a ‘sponsored’ button or be a designated advert, but celebrity endorsements and posts by influencers advocating for certain brands and services are a way to market to those proving harder to reach with traditional ad formats. 

An infographic based on this poll is available to view here.

Want more ideas on how to effectively reach this powerful segment of consumers? Read our previous marketing to millennials master class or try these five tools to make social media management easier.

Have you used social media adverts to target Generation Z or millennials? Was it effective or will you be trying other methods? Let us know in the comments.

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