Gen Z Video Content Contextual Targeting

What does Gen Z think about ads next to pimple popping videos?

Channel Factory


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December 13, 2021 | 6 min read

A new study between Channel Factory and MAGNA finds that misaligned, or not brand suitable video content, can erode the impact of hard-working advertisements

What does this mean? Think about a video created by users (called user-generated content) on YouTube, featuring content like pimple popping or ASMR. This content is monetized by brands, but the challenge can be that the brand’s ethos or values does not actually match the type of content it is running next to. Our study found that consumers notice and care where brands are. In particular, this impacts Gen Z, the youngest generation that is most sensitive to the type of content that brands endorse by running ads next to it.

Our methodology

To test the thesis that content and advertising should be aligned, we selected three brands. We tested their video ads in an environment with ‘regular’ content like entertainment, sports, comedy, and then content that could be viewed as ‘unsuitable’ or ‘unseemly’ for that brand (like ASMR or pimple popping videos). We then isolated Gen Zers to understand exactly what they thought and how they differed from their Millennial, Gen X, and Boomer counterparts.

We used three distinct brands in different verticals to understand if the difference existed across the board, selecting brands in haircare, telecom, and insurance.

We know from working on client requests and being avid video consumers ourselves that some video content is off-putting, but lives in this ‘grey area' - pimple popping videos aren’t distinctly unsafe (like gun videos), and they can be super engaging, but does a haircare brand want that brand placement? Maybe, but most likely not. We wanted to quantify once and for all how ‘icky’ video content placement has an effect on brand association with this third-party study.

What did we find?

The results from the study were clear: content suitability (how suitable the content is that the ad ran against) and content proximity (how close the ad ran to the unsuitable content) both matter when it comes to how users perceive brands. The most critical finding of the study was that misaligned content eroded the impact of ad creative that had performed strongly in the standard content. Impact on purchase intent diminished in misaligned content across several brand metrics: purchase intent (-8%), brand respect (-9%), brand being perceived as high quality (-5%) and brand trust (-6%) were significantly lower compared to standard content. So the message, content and advertisements need to be aligned. Consumers believe that advertisers are directly endorsing the content that the ads run next to, and consumers judge accordingly if content is unsuitable.

Imagine you’re watching videos online and you see an ad for a new SUV next to a video you’re watching about frog dissection, or a video of people eating pencil lead. You’re going to be a bit shocked, and then you might associate that reaction with the SUV brand and think less of the brand. That’s exactly what the study results tell us.

In addition, some of the most engaging misaligned content had the worst repercussions for the brands we tested. Users remembered the brand of the misaligned ads, but for the wrong reasons: +41% recalled ads in misaligned content while +32% recalled ads in standard content. However, impact dropped for brand thoughtfulness (-10%) and caring about customers (-7%) when users saw the ad next to misaligned content. So they remembered it, but it impacted brand metrics.

The generational difference

We also found that misaligned content affects brand association and perception in different ways for each generation (Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X), which makes sense considering the variance in how each generation came of age in the internet and social media era. Gen Zers have never known a life without the internet, so they are incredibly savvy in how they classify content vs. advertising.

While Gen Z was more likely than the other generations to rate misaligned content as ‘entertaining’, they were significantly more likely than other generations to say ‘misaligned content is inappropriate for brands’ to be around - indicating they know there is a different standard in what is appropriate in general vs. what is appropriate for brands. While 69% of Gen Z rated misaligned content “appropriate in general,” just 29% rated it appropriate for brands (a huge drop with a -40% change in perception). In comparison, 65% of Millennials rated misaligned content appropriate in general with 42% rating it appropriate for brands (-23% change) and 64% of Gen X rated misaligned content appropriate in general with 48% rating it appropriate for brands (-15% change).

Video card environment testing showed that the closer the advertisement was to misaligned content, the stronger the brand association: consumers were +10% more likely to believe that brand supported the misaligned content compared to two videos away. Furthermore, people were +9% more likely to skip the ad when it appeared directly after misaligned or unsuitable content.

We hear a lot of stereotypes about Gen Z today - they’re sensitive, have a short attention span, and are addicted to technology. But, all of these traits can be looked at from another angle to mean that Gen Z is hyper-perceptive, and our study proves that this is true when it comes to video advertising, content placement and brand associations.

Gen Z has strong beliefs about how organic content and brand alignment intertwine and what the acceptable boundaries are for each - even more so than other generations. An unsuitable content-to-ad experience can negatively surprise them and come across as inauthentic or creepy. Gen Z expects more out of brand placement: they have high standards for their personal user experience when consuming video content and what’s in that content, and this deeply affects brand loyalty and who they purchase from. The best solution for brands to ensure continued engagement with Gen Z is to consciously build out authentic ad campaigns that are aligned across mission, message and medium, as well as ad campaigns that result in a positive user experience.

To download the study, click here:

By Sara Luckow, senior director of strategic marketing and research.

Gen Z Video Content Contextual Targeting


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