Advertising To Gen Z: Are Social Media Ads Effective?


Megan McKnight

A phone displays a TikTok ad for the brand Likewise, one example of a paid advertisement on social media targeted towards Gen Z.

Megan McKnight, Copy Editor

Numerous companies have shifted their marketing endeavors to capture the attention of Generation Z, and social media has become the most prominent tool used to cater to their interests. However, after many teens found these ads unrelatable, some brands have reverted their focus back to the older generations while others continue their pursuit for Gen Z on social media platforms.   

Gen  Z comprises 72 million people ranging in age from 10 to 25 years old. Gen Z is known for being the first generation to never know of a life without technology, leading to many Gen Zers naturally gravitating towards social media. As brands began to recognize this reliance, they decided to use it to their advantage by inserting ads on social media.

These advertisements are placed on popular social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat to specifically target the younger generation of consumers. For example, TikTok has roughly 225,000 brands actively advertising through the platform. 

This massive influx of brand advertisements can be attributed to the young age of the platform’s user demographic. 80% of TikTok’s 600 million daily users are between the ages of 18 and 34. Other platforms are experiencing a similar phenomenon, with over 25 million brands advertising on Instagram and 25% of all social media advertisers placing ads on Pinterest. 

Despite the frequent ad placements, many teens find the ads ineffective. “They are annoying and pop up too much,” said Abby Mulvania, a senior at PV and a user on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. Similar to Mulvania, 90% of social media users find online ads annoying or ineffective.

It is not the amount of time that people spend on social media that determines the effectiveness of advertising, as users on minimal services do not find ads important. Senior Julianne Binto, a recreational Instagram user, does not pay attention to ads. “I think social media ads are annoying, but they don’t influence or affect me that much,” she said.  

Because these ads often interrupt desired content and many find them annoying or irrelevant, many companies have found that targeting a different generation is far more profitable.

Land’s End, a major outerwear company, made the switch to targeting Gen X after attempts to cater to the younger generations resulted in a massive drop in overall sales. The company lost sight of its original purpose of providing the middle aged consumers with high quality outwear. However, after making the decision to cater to older generations, the company has been doing incredibly well.

This trend of targeting older generations is becoming more and more common, with brands such as Costco and Amazon following in the footsteps of Land’s End. By targeting these consumers, many companies are finding an increased number of sales due to the buying tendencies of the older demographic. Brands may make the shift to cater to older demographics if Gen Z continues to find social media ads annoying and irrelevant which would change the entire future of advertising.