Generation Z is here, but how important is it?

(Ad Age) Ad Age has published a great article outlining the newest generation of consumers, Generation Z. As is to be expected this new generation has different values, different beliefs, different buying trends and different motivating factors from the previous generation. 

Marketers love this kind of information because it helps them understand how to shape their messages in away that will resonate with consumers, as well as understand where to place that message so that it will actually be seen. If you are buying broadcast, print or out of home ads, this kind of information is vital. However, if you're buying digital, is it really that important?

My opinion is no. 

I won't go as far as to say that these types of labels no longer have a place, because as I just mentioned, for certain advertising options they are important. However in the digital world I do not believe that advertisers should worry about what "generation" they are trying to reach; but instead focus on reaching their consumer. 

We know for example that Generation Z is the first generation born into the digital world. This is compared to Millennials who were not born into it, but grew up with it. While it's fair to say that Gen Z would be an attractive market for a mobile gaming app, we know that some people in the Millennial market would be interested in that game as well. And there might even be some older generations who like gaming. If we target by generation or use broad generalizations, we end up with a lot of wasted impressions going to people who have no interest in our game, as well as missed opportunities by not including interested consumers in a different "generation." 

Now advertisers can start to target just those who download and play mobile games, regardless of race, age, income, etc. They can use CRM data or even a DMP to collect data on their consumers and further refine their targeting based on information from their actual consumers.

We can put blocks in place so that we don't run ads to a consumer who might not fit our target, or is in an inappropriate place to be targeted. This covers the basics such as porn or illegal websites, but can also be as simple as not serving an ad for ski trip to someone who has been searching for beach trips. You might know that Millennials like to travel and have money to spend, but the mind set of someone who wants to go a beach in winter is very different from someone who wants to go skiing in winter. Understanding that difference and being able to act on it gives advertisers huge advantages.

As programmatic buying expands outside of the digital world into TV and radio buying, these "generations" will be less and less important. If you can buy a TV spot with the same type of targeting you use in digital, then everything we have known about TV buying and planning will change. Everything from the target audience to ratings and impressions. (I'll expand on why I think GRPs are no longer important in another post). 

Categorizing and naming a generation will never go away though, even if advertisers stop using them. It's important to track consumer behavior and changes over time at a macro level and it's interesting historic information. However in our digital, 24/7, data-centric, programmatic world, I believe the idea of targeting a generation will go the way of the of CD.