Young Europeans are tired of seeing perfect images from brands and are embracing imperfection. These stats tell the story…
- Young Europeans know how to avoid ads (and be critical of the ones they do see), meaning brands need to get creative to reach them
- Gen Z and Millennials are tired of seeing perfectly polished images from brands and are embracing imperfection
- User-generated content is a goldmine for brands—and is the kind of content young Europeans want to see
We’ve long known that Gen Z and Millennials are adept at avoiding the types of marketing they don’t want to see. And, even more than that, they’re harsh critics of the ads that do cross their paths (or, you know, feeds). Our recent WE Ad/Marketing Effectiveness report found that more than three in five young Europeans say ads usually bore them, and the same amount say that brands rarely do something that surprises them.
Clearly, brands are facing some challenges when it comes to reaching these generations, despite the fact that Gen Z and Millennials are spending more time consuming media than ever before. And while on the one hand, this means that brands need to aim to entertain to capture their attention, brands also need to align with young Europeans’ values to appeal to them. After all, two in five young Europeans have stopped buying from a brand because of an advertisement they didn’t like. And while this could be something as big as a messaging misstep (think Pepsi and Kendall Jenner), it could also be simply because a brand’s marketing is not relatable enough. Young Europeans are tired of the pressure to look perfect on social media—and this is causing them to embrace brands and influencers that project a more down-to-earth image. Here are three stats from our Ad/Marketing Effectiveness survey that show how Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe are seeking more relatable marketing from brands:
Three-quarters of young Europeans say brands over-Photoshop their photos.
YPulse has been following the body positive movement for years now, which has continued to gain momentum as Gen Z and Millennials broadcast their desire to have all shapes and sizes accepted, and to see more realistic—or simply real—representations of women in ads. In the course of this movement, there’s been a backlash against the use of Photoshop in advertising. While edited and polished images have long been the expectation, 76% of young Europeans now say brands over-Photoshop their images—and 57% say that the use of Photoshop causes them to think negatively of a brand. Unsurprisingly, this is higher among women: 81% of young females agree that brands are over-Photoshopping (vs 71% of young males), and 57% think negatively of brands that use Photoshop compared to 48% of young males. In the U.K., this move away from Photoshop has even caused a member of Parliament to introduce a bill that would require influencers to call out their digitally-altered images. Much like the laws that require online celebs to tag their sponsored posts, the Digitally Altered Body Images bill forces influencers, advertisers, and broadcasters to be “honest and upfront” about edited images in an effort to end the negative mental health impact on young Europeans “caught up in the arms race for the perfect selfie.” In fact, U.K. consumers are the most likely to say that they think negatively of a brand that uses Photoshop (67%). But more than just the use of Photoshop, young Europeans are rebelling against perfection more generally…
The majority say they prefer imperfect content.
We told brands that they should continue making “scrappy” ads post-COVID, and clearly, this is still the marketing that Gen Z and Millennials want: 72% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say they like when content from a brand is not perfect. Meanwhile, 75% say they’re tired of seeing only perfect/polished images in advertising, indicating a seismic shift away from the marketing of old. Again, unsurprisingly, this is higher among females than males—79% of young European females say they’re growing weary of the shiny veneer compared to 70% of young males, which could have something to do with the fact that 62% of females also say that advertisements use stereotypes about their gender (vs 55% of males). But in general, the majority of all young Europeans are expressing a desire for more imperfect depictions—and young Brits are the most likely to say so (81%). In fact, the BBC recently reported that 18-25-year-olds in the U.K. want to see “simple, back to basics” aesthetics that offer “more authentic and more relatable role models,” according to social media experts. And that’s part of the reason why young Europeans no longer want brand-created content…
Seven in ten want brands to feature user-generated content.
More than wanting brands to create their own imperfect content, young Europeans want to see brands featuring content from real people. 72% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say they like when brands repost social content that was created by users like them, and the same amount agree that they like when brands use content created by users of the brand. In fact, brands have successfully been tapping the power of UGC for a while now, and a recent study from UGC software company Bazaarvoice found that user-generated content holds the most power to influence young consumer spending in Western Europe, indicating a marketing “powershift” away from B2C content and toward peer-to-peer recommendations. YPulse’s recent WE New Content Creators trend report shows that the majority of young people are creating content for an audience, making almost everyone in these generations an influencer—and presenting brands with a massive opportunity to tap the growing influence of these nano-influencers. Even better, these content creators are eager to work with brands, giving brands an easy way to remove the polish and show young Europeans how relatable they can be.
YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full Ad/Marketing Effectiveness behavioral report and data here.
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