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Gen Z and Millennials Don’t Want Your Romantic Ads

For Gen Z and Millennials, celebrations of love are for more than couples, and they want brands to show it… 


  • Young consumers would rather see ads about self-love than romantic love
  • And even more prefer to see ads about friendships than relationships—even those who are in one
  • Singles especially want to see ads glorifying singledom

Valentine’s Day campaigns and ads have always focused primarily on romantic love—after all, isn’t this the couples’ holiday? But Gen Z and Millennials see love differently than gens before them, and most don’t believe brands understand that quite yet; our data shows 60% agree “Brands don’t understand how people in my generation view love.” In fact, they feel that advertisements are still pushing them toward perfect romantic relationships, but they would rather see love portrayed in other ways: with their friends and with themselves. 

So, while some brands have caught onto Galentine’s Day and Palentine’s Day for platonic love celebrations, and Single’s Day for self-love, many still relegate V-Day for the couples. But if they really want to reach young consumers, they should reconsider how they frame love, and what kind of love is most important to them. YPulse’s What’s The Situationship? trend report data shows exactly how young people feel about love, different kinds of commitment, and how their views on it all are different than the ones presented by brands. When we ask them specifically about how they’d like to see love portrayed in advertisements we see they’re leaning away from ads all about romance and more towards the kinds of love they deem equally, if not more, important: 

60% of Gen Z and Millennials would rather see an advertisement that celebrates self-love than celebrates love with a romantic partner

The majority would rather see ads that celebrate self-love than romantic love 

When we ask 13-39-year-olds which relationship in their life is the highest priority, their top answer is the one with themselves—even for those in a relationship. These generations are all about self-love: 86% agree “It’s important to have a strong relationship with yourself before focusing on your relationship with others.” They want to see that view on love embraced by brands and showcased in advertisements, too.  

When choosing between seeing an ad that celebrates self-love or love with a romantic partner, 60% choose self-love. And while single Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to choose self-love (65%), 61% of those in a relationship and 50% who are engaged or married do too. Knowing that, brands can rest assured that focusing advertisements about love on self-love will not alienate young people in relationships, because it’s important to them to see it from brands, too. 

62% of Gen Z and Millennials would rather see an advertisement that celebrates friendship than celebrates romantic relationships

And they’d rather see friendship celebrated, too 

While they choose the relationship with themselves as most important, young people also highly value the love they share with friends; in fact, 55% of Gen Z and Millennials agree “Friendships are more important than romantic relationships.” And again, they want brands to acknowledge their views of love. Young consumers are more likely to say they’d prefer to see ads that celebrate friendship over romantic relationships—and again, even those in relationships. While singles are most likely to say so (67%), 58% in a relationship and 55% who are married or engaged also prefer ads about friendship, too. Further, 70% of young consumers agree “Commercials should show more groups of friends doing things together, instead of couples,” so even if it’s not their personal preference, they still want to see more representation of love between friends.  

This is especially true for Gen Z, as a large group of the younger gen have not been in a relationship yet and would rather see advertising they can relate to. YPulse data shows that more Gen Z than Millennials are planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their friends, so ads for the holiday can appeal to them through more focus on platonic love. And while many V-Day ads are focused on selling symbols of love, 57% of Gen Z have bought something to signify the importance of their friendship—more than those who have bought something to signify a romantic one. This is one of many signs of how this gen looks at friendships as just as much a commitment as a romantic relationship, so brands can earn their favor by embracing this kind of love in their marketing.  

52% of Gen Z and Millennials would rather see an advertisement glorifies being single than glorifies being in a realationship

They think more ads should promote the single lifestyle 

Research is showing that, at least in America, there are more single people than ever. And now, more Gen Z and Millennials would rather see ads that glorify being single than those who want to see ads glorifying being in a relationship. Of course, singles are more inclined to say so: 59% of young singles say so, while both those in a relationship and married or engaged prefer to see one glorifying romantic relationships. But still, more than 40% of each taken group still want to see ads glorifying the single life, because these gens believe in being happy with or without a partner. The vast majority (72%) even say “I would rather be single for the rest of my life than marry someone I don’t love,” versus 28% who say “I would rather settle for a partner I don’t love than stay single for the rest of my life,” showing they are happy to be on their own—something older generations may not have agreed with.  

And even though 48% prefer to see an ad glorifying romantic relationships, the majority of Gen Z and Millennials currently say ads do not reflect the kind of love they experience. Over half (56%) of these gens agree that “Advertisements depict an old-fashioned view of love that I don’t relate to.” A large portion also want to see romantic love in a less serious, less perfect way—the way that many of them experience it themselves: 49% say they would rather see an ad depict a messy, casual view of love than a perfect, romantic one.  

So, while brands might only feel inclined to celebrate the coupled-up young consumers this time of year, even they are happy to see ads about self-love and loving their friends, because their relationship doesn’t negate the priority of either. And young people are also happy with being single, so they don’t care to see ads pushing them to believe romantic love is the only goal in their life. But that doesn’t mean these gens are against seeing ads about romantic love, just that they’re ready to see more reflecting the other important kinds of love in their lives.