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Using Native Advertisements to Market to Gen Z

Jun 10, 2020


Traditional advertising versus native advertising has long been a debate amongst marketers, depending on how they saw the future. Now, the future is here, and it has made a loud and clear statement: the difference between the two is not marked merely by what works better, but what works better on whom.

Generation Z (people born between 1995 and 2010) is known for being the generation of digital natives. To them, digital platforms are not a new discovery but a commonplace affair. They know and use them better than the rest of us, and more importantly, they live their lives on digital platforms. As a generation, Gen Z is also more aware of its consumption. Gen Zers do their research, check for best prices, and look up reviews before making purchases.

Native Ads for Digital Natives

All of this means that Gen Z is wary of traditional advertising coming at them from all sides. This is the generation that is okay with mobile ads but wants ads that feel “native” to their digital feeds. In fact, Gen Zers are likely to skip irrelevant ads after an average of 9.5 seconds as opposed to Gen X, who would wait for a full 12.6 seconds. So, how does one then effectively market to them? One of the best ways is to meet them where they live: social media. Gen Zers spend an average of 11 hours per week on their phones. There’s a higher chance of them paying attention if you talk to them through their phones. And one of the best ways to talk to this generation is through native advertising.

Essentially, native advertising is paid content. As detailed by Wordstream, what makes it differ from traditional advertising is that the content that constitutes a native ad will usually align with the publication’s/site’s/social media account’s established style or tone. Additionally, native ads tend to provide information that the target audience expects. So, if you’re selling to Gen Z, it’s time you understood the power of native advertising, and how to leverage this tactic to make them add your product to their cart.

Chatter vs. Chatting

Traditional advertising would put a lot of focus on awareness and conversion. These two are no longer enough for Gen Zers to complete product purchases. They are looking for brands to connect with, to first build credibility before asking them to buy a product. With this in mind, one of the most important facets of native advertising is being realistic and genuine and approaching Gen Z with humanized content.

Brands also need to interact with Gen Z; one-sided conversations are no longer enough. Behind-the-scenes footage, the people behind the brands, and engagement around the products should all form important parts of your marketing plans. Some brands tend to turn off the comments on their social media posts — but this is often not the best strategy for engagement with Gen Z, and may even come across as inauthentic. Rather, allowing Zers to comment, engage, and give feedback on social media is likely to boost brand credibility.

Influencer Marketing

Research from Washington State University shows that brands will be spending up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. This prediction itself explains the importance of influencer marketing and the significant role it plays in talking to Gen Z. The world has been taken aback by the rise of internet stars in recent years. These social media icons are more real and more approachable than the traditional celebrity, and yet have something unique to share with the world.

In other words, influencers are inspirational to Gen Zers, with almost 44% of this generation having made a purchase decision based on an influencer’s recommendation. Gen Z looks up to them and aspires to have their lifestyle or their skills, and aspiration makes for a good selling point. With influencers, the task is already half done. All a brand needs to do is seamlessly integrate their product into the content of the influencer. For example, asking an influencer to wear your brand’s watch in their videos can get you immediate traction and inquiries about it.

The most important thing to remember about influencer marketing is finding the right influencer for your brand. Today, there are more influencers than we can count — but some will fit your brand better than others. Use analytical tools to find out whose followers overlap with your target audience the most, and whose content coincides with your brand values. The right influencer is worth every penny and more, even in the long term.

A Platform-First Approach

Your marketing plan, and particularly, your native advertisements, should be based on the platform you choose to advertise on. A platform-first approach means prioritizing your choice of platform or social media channel when designing your native ads. Not all platforms are created the same, and they each have their own unique ways of displaying content. In turn, your native advertisements will differ significantly across platforms. With this in mind, your native advertisements should be tailored so as carefully consider the platform they are being displayed on. Using the same content for all platforms might not always work, and therefore your brand should alter content according to the needs of the platform.

For instance, if your objective is B2B communication, focus on LinkedIn. If you want to engage more, Instagram is your platform. In this way, each platform fulfills a purpose and should be used accordingly.

Targeted Ads

Another format of native advertising is targeted ads on social media. These range from sponsored posts on Instagram to promoted tweets on Twitter. All these use the internet activity of users to predict who is more likely to actually make a sale. Targeted ads make for a great way of acquiring new, like-minded customers. Programmatic native advertising takes this one step further, enabling brands to serve targeted, real-time native ads to customers. As explained by Outbrain, programmatic native advertising works through a system of bids between the supply-side platform (SSP) and the demand-side platform (DSP). When there is space for an ad as a result of a user visiting a platform, the DSP bids on behalf of the advertiser to display a certain ad. The SSP selects the winning bid based on the metadata and immediately configures the native ad to suit the chosen platform. All this occurs within a fraction of a second, resulting in a customized, targeted ad, based on real-time data. In turn, a targeted response in real-time can lead to increased user engagement.


Traditional advertising does not speak to Gen Zers. They are looking for more than just a catchy jingle or a celebrity holding the product. They want to engage with brands that are relevant to them and to gain traction with Gen Z, your brand has to adapt to native advertising.

Native ads are seamlessly fitted into the internet consumption of this generation. They also create a larger space for niche brands to gain a market. So, jumping on the native advertising bandwagon is no longer an option, but a necessity if you want to reach Gen Z.

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Story by Luke Smith

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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