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‘Time for demographic barriers to get smashed to pieces’: Ad execs on 2024 audiences


By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

February 5, 2024 | 9 min read

We ask eight strategists, agency owners, and innovation heads how demographics are continuing to evolve.

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Segmentation, audience and demographics trends for 2024: experts have their say / Charlesdeluvio via Unsplash

By the end of next year, we will have a whole, complete new generation: though consensus hasn’t yet been reached, many researchers are working with the assumption that the last ‘generation Alpha’ babies will be born in 2024.

The clock, then, is already ticking on the inevitable watershed moment where marketers’ LinkedIn posts obsess over gen Alpha, instead of gen Z. A certain amount of this demographic thinking is doomed to be facile and reductive, but there’s a reason why marketers spend so much effort trying to understand group differences: correctly predicting group changes can be big business. So, what’s coming round the corner (other than the inevitable growth of boomers on TikTok)? How are demographics shifting? We asked leaders from The Drum Network.

Shelina Taki, senior director of strategy & insights, PMG: “From multiple streaming platforms and retail choices, to differing news cycles and information bubbles, attention fatigue is a problem. In an era of unlimited options, there’s an inherent tension between wanting to pare back to the basics and wanting it all. For millennials and gen Z, who are so entrenched in the chaos of consumption, we will continue to see a shift toward living and consuming with intention, and aligning with brands that embody specific values. That may mean audiences scale back to one to two streaming platforms, become more thoughtful about who they follow, or stick to just a handful of curated brands for all their needs. Brands will need to focus on intention over attention when planning how and where they show up, and the values they showcase. With attention in such short supply, every interaction must have meaning.”

Wes Morton, chief executive officer, Creativ Strategies: “2024 will be the year advertisers, media executives, and the public abandon analog media and fully embrace digital. Streaming TV, video games, and social media have all eclipsed cable and broadcast viewership last year. Expect most major media companies to divide their holdings in two, new media (streaming TV, streaming audio, video games, social media) and old media (cable, broadcast, radio, print).

“New media will attract fresh investors and rapidly grow viewership. Old media will be spun out to private equity buyers to milk waning cash flows. Ad agencies have already seen the writing on the wall, reorganizing their agencies and buying tech to please clients. Anticipate more shake-ups and layoffs. If you're not digital now, you’re the walking dead.”

Frediano Iannelli, strategy director, RocketMill: “It’s about time that some demographic barriers got smashed to pieces. For too long, we’ve bucketed certain channels into specific demographics: gen Z on TikTok, boomers on TV, and even limiting B2B solely to LinkedIn. The reality is that most people are in most places at some point in their daily lives; whose parents (or even grandparents) don't send them TikToks or Instagram Reels these days!? Uefa Euro 2024 is a great exhibition of this. Boomers who couldn’t catch the game will turn to YouTube and social media for highlights, while gen Zers who do watch live will be watching on terrestrial TV. We need to stop going off hunches, move beyond stereotypes, and actually do the segmentation and research.”

Nick Graham, senior consultant, strategy at Kepler: “As brands ditch broadcast and embrace chat, Snapchat and Discord are surfacing as 2024 must-haves. Meta and Google’s grip on younger audiences is loosening. Snapchat boasts a huge reach among 16-34s and Discord is a gen Z haven, driven by robust privacy features and community-centric ethos. Younger generations are seeking conversational experiences, exclusive access, and a sense of belonging. This is where Snapchat and Discord shine. Snapchat’s fleeting nature gives a feeling of intimacy and immediacy. Discord, with its customizable servers and active communities directly engage with passionate consumers. Navigating these platforms requires a different mindset, especially with tensions high from polarized opinions driving the general elections later in the year. Expect more young adults to reach for their phone and share their thoughts to their inner tribes.”

Lisa Gramling, senior vice president, research innovations & intelligence, Momentum Worldwide: “The majority might still be too young to (legally) have a social media account but that hasn’t stopped generation Alpha from becoming a spending powerhouse. While their spending is primarily being channeled through their parents (mostly millennials), this generation of tiny retail titans is showing us all that their $1tn projected direct spend or influence for 2024 (and their forecasted $1.7tn globally by 2029) isn’t a miscalculation. Alphas are driving sales in a variety of categories, particularly anti-aging creams (thanks TikTok!), leaving little for the rest of us older generations to buy. With 2024 still in its infancy, there’s so much more time to watch the Alpha influence rise. With 2.8 million born globally each week, this generation will reach 2 billion by the time they’ve all been born (in 2025), making it the largest generation in the history of the world. Their spending has only just begun.”

Neil Hopkins, strategy partner at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment: “The future is going to be about doing away with generic portrayals of consumers that obscure reality. We connect brands to people through their passions – the things they are fans of – and we can see that a revolution is taking place in fans’ relationships with sport and entertainment. We are moving beyond a traditional understanding of fandom, towards what we’re calling ‘fancom’, the expansion of atomized subcultures across sport and entertainment. This is characterized by a demand from fans to take ownership and reinvent the traditional relationship between fans and their passions. Communities of fans are coalescing around nuanced elements of their passions, from football to film to fashion.”

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Lucy Porter, strategy partner, PrettyGreen: “This week we’re releasing the results of a study into the UK’s leisure behavior in 2024. One of the most surprising behavioral trends is an increased appetite for adults wanting to participate in ‘active events’ in the year ahead, like 10k runs, half marathons, and obstacle races. This saw the biggest reported net increases of all categories we researched (+31% increase in time and +17% increase in spend v 2023 behavior). Clearly, for some, leisure time isn’t just about rest & relaxation. We also found that around one in five adults enjoys spending their free leisure time developing their body and mind, by being creative (18%), learning new things (20%) and improving their health and wellbeing (22%). Brands that can embrace our appetite for personal growth look set to steal a bigger share of time and wallet in the year ahead.”

Jordan Carroll, innovation director, The Fifth: “Sweeping generalizations about gen Z mask meaningful attitudinal and behavioral diversity within this group. Despite common stereotypes, one in three gen Zers are middle- to high-income. They’re just as likely to be in full-time employment as education. A third are primary bill payers; 13% are parents. Just as the circumstances of gen Z vary widely, so do their behaviors. While often portrayed as impulse shoppers fixated on TikTok Shop, the cohort actually responds better to emotional advertising. Meanwhile, low-income gen Zers are portrayed as ‘disloyal’ shoppers through behaviors like dupe cultures and de-influencing, but it’s actually middle-income consumers with no kids who are more likely to shop for cheaper alternatives to the brands they like. Segmenting solely by age oversimplifies. Understanding the behavior of sub-groups allows brands to build authentic connections.”

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