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Agencies must address ‘generation gap’ in media consumption, say IPA and Facebook


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

February 4, 2020 | 4 min read

The Institute for Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) is calling on agencies to deploy more diverse media plans after research it conducted with Facebook found that the past five years had brought about a “dramatic” change in how younger people consumer media versus older audiences.

The report cited the “rapid rise of the smartphone” as the driving force behind this change

The report cited the 'rapid rise of the smartphone' as the driving force behind this change

According to the latest TouchPoints report – drawn from the IPA’s database which uses a representative sample of over 6,000 adults living in Great Britain – the correlation between the media use of 16 to 34-year-olds and over 55s from a time-spent perspective was 58% in 2015. However, this fell by more than half to 25% in 2019.

Although less marked, a similar story was seen when looking at the correlation in the reach of channels, which fell from 44% in 2015 to 35% in 2019. The IPA claimed this indicates increasingly disparate media behaviours between these age groups.

Across all adults, commercial TV and OOH commanded the highest reach and time spent, followed by online and social media.

The amount of time all age groups spent with digital media (ie any form of media which requires an internet connection) increased by 19% in five years, from 42% in 2015 to 50% in 2019. This growth was particularly prevalent among 16 to 34s, who said they spend 73% of their time with digital channels up from 59% in 2015, marking a 24% bump in five years.

The report cited the “rapid rise of the smartphone” as the driving force behind this change.

Despite the meteoric rise of services like Netflix to 37% weekly reach of all adults, the split between commercial and non-commercial curated media share of time only changed by one percentage point since 2015. Elsewhere, the average time spent with all curated media per day remained exactly the same at eight hours and 27 minutes.

“It is clear from the results of this report that a ‘one size fits all’ media approach is likely to be less effective than it was previously,” said Simon Frazier, senior research and marketing manager at the IPA.

“While broad reach is still essential for profitable brand growth, how advertisers achieve that broad reach is becoming more varied across age groups.”

Though the generation gap between consumers appears to be widening, the IPA’s annual Agency Census shows media agencies are well equipped to deal with the demand for more diverse media plans.

Last year, the trade body noted an increase in the number of people employed by media agencies, while staff numbers at creative and non-media agencies fell for the second consecutive year.

In 2018, staff employed by media agencies rose by 7.1% year-on-year adding around 700 employees. However, non-media agencies saw a decline in staff to the tune of 5.1%; marking the second consecutive year of shrinkage with around 900 departures.

The figures come as brands increasingly invest in varying kinds of creative models instead of appointing a single ad agency of record, including bringing creative and media closer together and in-housing.


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