Generational Advertising

Information sharing and cultural adaptations change from generation to generation, which is why it’s important for marketers to understand the nuanced differences between how to reach a target audience who is a Gen Z versus a Gen X (or any other combination). While technology is adapted throughout generational ranges, the usage differs greatly. We’ve compiled a list of specific differences between how generations prefer to consume media and receive ads.


Baby Boomers (born between 1946 – 1964)

  • Drawn to the value proposition of a product of service. Answer the question “why do I need this?” clearly and quickly.
  • Susceptible to traditional marketing tactics, like television and print, but anything that feels like an intrusive ad to them is not welcomed.
  • Customer service is key – they like to talk to real people before and after they make a purchase.
  • The generation least likely to complete a purchase on their mobile phones.
  • Baby Boomers prefer short-form text content. When creating online shopping carts, form fills, and blog posts, clear and concise language and direction is key. However, this generation is much more likely to shop in-store.
  • They’re on social media – mostly Facebook – to be social! Most Boomers are on Facebook to connect with distant family and friends or reconnect with people in their past. Due to the social nature of Boomers, they are most likely to ignore your social ads, report them as spam, or click by mistake.
  • Baby Boomers account for 50 percent of all consumer expenditures and spend $3.2 trillion annually. Going back to value proposition above, they will pay and be loyal to products and services they see as valuable to them and/or good quality. They want to splurge on themselves in their retirement – making them perfect candidates for an upsell!


Generation X (born between 1965 – 1980)


  • Gen X is busy working, raising kids, and saving for retirement, so they love coupons and anything that will make their lives easier.
  • Email marketing works well with this generation. They’re usually plugged into email for work anyway and their relatively quick adoption of technology means they can check it on their mobile, tablet, and desktop devices.
  • Two-thirds of Gen Xers with a household income of more than $250,000 and half of Gen Xers with incomes of less than $250,000 plan on taking a vacation in the next 12 months. Capitalize on Gen X’s love of travel through vacation imagery, giveaways, and value statements that express how your product or service can make it easier for them to take that vacation.
  • Contrary to popular belief, direct mail isn’t totally dead. Its last breath is being held by Gen Xers. Eighty-six percent of Gen Xers bring in their mail each day and 68 percent say they’ve used coupons they receive in the mail. This generation is also more likely to continue to receive paper bills over electronic and send birthday cards through the mail rather than or in addition to posting on social media. While Gen X is tech savvy – they still have traditional roots!
  • Speaking of tech savvy, Gen Xers have grown up with increasing technology; 74 percent of the Gen X generation claim they’re active users of social media on a monthly basis or more.
  • Digital video is key in not only the Millennial generation – Gen X loves video too – with about 79 percent downloading or streaming online video every month.


Millennials (born between 1981 – 1996)

  • Perhaps the most often talked about generation recently, Millennials are almost totally saturated in the adult workforce, meaning they have a lot of buying power too.
  • Millennials covet ease of use and are most likely to shop online. If your website, form fills, and mobile apps are not easy to use and load quickly, Millennials will move on before you can get your message to them.
  • Online reviews and recommendations from family and friends are a driving force in how Millennials shop and build brand loyalty. Sixty-eight percent of Millennials report they won’t make a major decision without talking to people they trust.
  • Innovate coupons and incentives – Millennials love innovation and are early adopters of cutting-edge technology. This generation is more likely to “check-in” on social media to receive a discount or share posts with their social media followers to be entered into sweepstakes.
  • Millennials are on-the-go but still consume vast quantities of media. Online radio, video streaming, and podcasts are a great way to build brand awareness, and because Millennials love customization, if they hear you sponsoring their favorite podcast it can be an instant avenue to brand loyalty.
  • Speaking about loyalty, Millennials love loyalty programs, but not the plastic credit cards from 2005. Millennials want to use their mobile devices to interact with brands and 77 percent of them claim they already do or are willing to participate in rewards programs from their favorite brands. National chains like Starbucks and Chipotle are already seeing success by integrating loyalty programs into free mobile apps.


Gen Z (born between 1997 – present)

  • The most recent generation, meaning that they have never known a world without digital technology, like smartphones and the internet.
  • Gen Z is fantastic at digital multitasking, many will have five screens open at once, making getting their attention online difficult. Some studies put this generation’s attention span at only 8 seconds.
  • Since their attention spans are short, digital advertising needs to be flashy and concise – what do you want the user to do? If you leave it to them to figure out, they will scroll past you, which has made the introduction of 6-second spots of video content so popular to reach this generation.
  • Being so tech savvy, Gen Zers learn about new products and services almost wholly online, which hardly means a desktop device. Gen Z is swiping through mobile phones, tablets, smart TVs, and gaming consoles.
  • Half of Gen Z says they couldn’t live without YouTube, making the platform a goldmine to reach this audience. However, it also speaks to the incessant need for this generation to stream content.
  • Facebook is for “old” people according to Gen Z, but that doesn’t mean some aren’t on Facebook to connect with family who uses the platform. The most used social platforms for this generation are YouTube, Instagram, Facebook/Snapchat, and Twitter.