Gen Y: Seeing their world in moral terms
They are activists, just like their parents the boomers
November 1, 2012
Adults 18-34 are a desirable audience with lots of disposable income, but unlike other demographics they tend to eschew traditional media and traditional advertising. That makes them a real challenge for media people. The key to reaching them is understanding their values and what motivates them, and for that media people might well turn to a new study from youth-focused research company Intelligence Group (IG), a division of Creative Artists Agency (CAA). The study finds that Gen Yers are more socially aware than they are often given credit for, and that they believe digital activism can create more change than hitting the streets. Just 27 percent said they would base their vote for president on who will help them the most, while 73 percent said they would vote for the person who will make the world better. The issues they are most concerned about are the economy, the environment and education. Like their parents, the boomers, they consider themseles social activists. Joe Kessler, president at The Intelligence Group, talks to Media Life about misperceptions about Generation Y, how they differ from their parents, and how to connect with them.
What did you find most surprising or most interesting about this report?
We are consistently impressed by the degree to which, even in the face of their personal financial challenges, Gen Ys continue to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to expressing their social consciousness.
More than half say they would take a pay cut to work somewhere that is positively changing the world, 59 percent say that a company’s ethics and practices are important in deciding what brands to buy, and about one-third say they make it a point to buy from brands whose values are similar to their own. They are making that “benefit equation” in a very conscious way and, for brands seeking to engage them, that's very compelling.
What's the most important thing media buyers and planners can take from it?
Generally, ads – digital or otherwise – are not a particularly effective channel for engaging Gen Ys on the social issues they care about.
The brands and campaigns that resonate with them the most are those that either establish a truly collaborative platform for initiating change or offer them something through which they can share and advocate their actions online. In many cases, it's progressive non-profits like charity: water and The Million Hoodies Movement that are innovating in this space more than companies and brands.
What is the biggest misconception about Generation Y, and why is it out there?
There are many, but in the context of social consciousness, it's the perception that they're entitled "slackers," or what we call "slacktivists." This is based on perceptions of older generations who are adopting that perspective through the lens of their own life experience.
But Gen Ys, more than anyone who came before them, are digital natives who understand inherently the power of consuming and then sharing an idea, and they have the means to do it that their parents or older siblings never had. So they don't need to pound the streets to get their point across, since they know how to unleash their 'digital activism' in ways that provoke change.
There have been some shifts in the top issues and causes dear to Gen Y since the last election cycle. Why, and what do they value most right now?
What Gen Ys value most can be summed up in what one respondent told us: "We don't just want to make money… we want to make meaning." So, while we do see the influence of the economic environment on the choices they make today, we continue to see from study to study a consistent concern about the environment, education and childhood poverty, to name a few.
They are very steadfast about the idea of doing things, including voting, in ways that they feel will make the world a better place as opposed to what's necessarily in it for them personally.
Why does this generation put so much faith in digital activism?
Gen Ys have been raised as “digital natives,’ and web-based platforms, fueled mainly by social media, represent the most efficient means they know for communicating, collaborating and entertaining each other. So it follows that they would turn to the digital world to fuel their activism as well.
Why does Gen Y believe so strongly that they themselves are capable of making a difference? Does this differ from other generations?
Gen Ys believe that they can make a difference largely because they have been raised by a generation of baby boomer parents who reinforced in them the idea that they could accomplish anything they set their minds to. Remember, their parents gave them trophies for just showing up.
What are some of the defining differences between Gen Y and their parents?
If there is a substantive generational divide between Gen Y and their Baby Boomer parents, it's mainly in their respective definitions of success. Ys have seen their parents achieve the classic "American Dream" of home ownership, nice cars, the corner office, etc., and have deduced, by and large, that those things don't necessarily deliver happiness.
So they are striving for unique experiences that define them, that they can share, and can add to their "life resume"–like exotic travel, music festivals, and adventurous volunteerism–as opposed to the traditional material symbols of success.
Tags: adults 18-34, advertising, buyers, generation y, intelligence group, media, media buyers, media buyers and planners, media life, media people, people, presidential election, Q&As, research, studies, study
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