All That Noise: The Generational Impact of Digital Advertising

By Michelle Brammer, September 29, 2016


There’s a lot of it in the advertising world, or is there? Depending on the age of the person you're speaking with, it’s either way too noisy or radio silent. Some of us use tools to silence the noise, while others are fairly unaffected by it all. But yet, we’ve likely all engaged with this noise in the form of a pesky advertisement that we didn’t mean to click on.

Age is a huge determining factor in the success of an advertisement. Trying to reach Generation Z? Put the advertising in or on their social networks, video games, or on YouTube. But if you’re trying to reach a Baby Boomer using those same outlets, it will likely prove futile and met with little to no engagement.

Related Post: Why You Need Social Media Advertising in a Mobile-First World

Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Generation Z all have a very different perspective on advertising noise and how they deal with it. Some use ad blockers while others don’t. Some groups recognize sponsored content while other groups cannot recognize the difference between a sponsored ad or native content.

Advertising noise does affect each age group very differently. Here are some reasons why.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers have been exposed to an entirely different type of advertisement over their lifetime, with formative years consisting heavily of newspaper, magazine, billboard, and television advertisements. These mainstream, old school methods of advertising are what is comfortable and familiar to them, especially when they are backed with a celebrity endorsement.


Source: Contently

For example, Depend Underwear leverages actors in their 40s and 50s to target their audience, which is typically 60 and beyond, with a magazine advertisement. Similarly, by backing your videos with a celebrity endorsement, 13% of them will view the video in its entirety -- the highest of any other age group.

But remember, Baby Boomers have grown up with advertising talking at them with little to no interaction, and many are fine with that. In fact, 56% of respondents reported they never want human interaction after interacting with a digital advertisement, quite the opposite goal of pretty much every marketer.


If you remember the excitement of walking into the computer lab filled with Apple computers and the dull flicker of Oregon Trail calling your name, you, my friend, are part of the Oregon Trail generation.


Source: BuzzFeed

Often the most refuted generation, Millennials have a good grasp on technology and the internet because they grew up with it. Formative years were spent in the computer lab dodging dysentery and keeping your crew afloat. High school years were spent in AOL chat rooms asking A/S/L and by college, they were selecting the perfect song to match their mood for their MySpace Profile.

It’s no wonder Millennials are the most neutral to advertisements with one in five saying the advertisements they are served are very relevant to their interests and lifestyle. They aren’t overly compelled by sponsored content either, with 47% having no passionate like or dislike for this noise, and a whopping 20% saying they’d even click on it from time to time. Presumably this age group is the most neutral since they have, more or less, grown up with the internet and the introduction of internet advertising.

Related Post: Understanding Millennials: How to Make Them Love Your Brand

But this neutrality also poses a problem for advertisers. Millennials have grown up, quite literally, attached to cell phones and tablets. Yes, while they are the most neutral to advertising, they are also the most immune to it, too. As a result, many Millennials don’t respond to advertising at all but will rely on word of mouth, opinions of friends, and their overall feelings towards a purchase decision before making the leap.

Generation Z

Unlike Baby Boomers and Millennials, Generation Z has never known life without the internet. They’ve engaged with it from an early age, and it has likely always been a part of their education curriculum.

In fact, they’re so ingrained that 31% of Generation Z claims they are rarely ever exposed to mobile advertising. That may seem pretty hard to believe but that could be due to the messaging that retailers are using to reach them.

Gen Z doesn’t respond to buzzwords. In fact, to be a successful retailer for the Gen Zers, you’ll need to get gritty and advertise reality. This audience relates to struggles, independence, and authenticity. Anything else is noise that will not be tolerated, much less recognized, by this overly saturated demographic.

Related Post: How to Tighten up Your Online Ad Copy

While Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Generation Z are all targeted differently in their own rights, they’re still affected by advertising noise. It’s how they respond to it that varies widely.



Please visit eZanga’s research on consumers’ advertising sentiment for additional insights and results.

Michelle Brammer

Michelle Brammer

Michelle Brammer is the Director of Marketing for eZanga. Her unique background includes over 13 years of brand marketing, strategy, analytics, operations, and multi-channel experience, and she’s firmly rooted in client success and engagement. She is passionate about teaching youth about the digital advertising space and perfecting inbound marketing and social media efforts. Michelle’s thoughts on marketing, advertising, and social media have been published on Forbes, Convince & Convert, iMedia Connection, Bulldog Reporter, MediaPost, PRNewswire, and Fierce Pharma. Michelle is a graduate of Miami University and holds a degree in Marketing and Family Studies. Prior to eZanga, Michelle held management positions with Frito-Lay, Dominion Enterprises, and Genji in both sales and marketing capacities. In her spare time, she’s a cheer mom to two young girls, loves watching the Ohio State Buckeyes, and occasionally has time to pick up a good book and relax. More Articles by Michelle Brammer