Gen Z on Super Bowl 50

The TV ads of Super Bowl 50 are receiving mixed reviews among the post-game marketing chatter.  While I enjoy analyzing the performance of these $5M ads, I enjoy sharing the performance of the ads from a Generation Z perspective even more.

So how did the Super Bowl 50 ads perform among Generation Z?  Most were somewhat entertaining, a couple were cute, with the sheep, dogs, marmots and wieners. Some were mildly shocking and many tried humor among the dominant Millennial audience with the Doritos baby, Hyundai Ryanville and PuppyMonkeyBaby thing. But a few ads resonated with Gen Z by featuring the core values of Generation Z including social awareness/social conscience, authenticity and ingenuity.

And why does this matter? Generation Z is in line to be brands’ primary consumers, and the leading target of the Super Bowl. Gen Z will be a major challenge to reach, especially in the Super Bowl where the ad cost commands a wide reach. Gen Z has deep pockets but a short attention span (8 second filter), a social conscience but require authenticity, an appreciation for creativity but almost an immunity to brand communications among the extreme digital clutter.

Three ads in particular stand out, with each ad trying to communicate a very meaningful message about a cause, not only the brand.  It’s these kinds of endearing and engaging Super Bowl ads that resonate with Generation Z.

So what triggered Gen Z to look up from their side-kick screens and watch the ads?


Colgate ‘Save Water’ – Social Conscience and Global Awareness

Colgate Save Water – Colgate displayed its’ concern for a global issue, the water shortage, and this resonates with Gen Z. Generation Z is very altruistic, they want to change the world by becoming social entrepreneurs.  Colgate’s execution of this message was flawless: simple, visual and included statements for those not listening. I bet many Gen Zer’s, and those who saw the ad, will turn the faucet off when brushing…and think of Colgate.



No More Domestic Violence – Social Conscience –

NO MORE – With airtime donated by the NFL, this socially informative ad tackled a difficult issue in a captivating way:  the texting format alone commanded attention. As Gen Z enters adulthood, they need to be aware of virtual warning signs of domestic abuse, and other abuse, since abuse is harder to detect virtually than personally. Gen Z needs to learn when to intervene and make a phone call.



Jeep Portraits – Authenticity

Jeep “We don’t make Jeep®. You do. Our story is your story. In celebration of our 75 years, we salute the faces and the vehicles that embody the spirit of the Jeep brand. Share your story with us using #MyJeepStory.

This resonates with Generation Z because the message is emotional, authentic and captivating.  Jeep reminds us of their rich heritage, how deep and real their brand is. Plus, Generation Z likes to drive Jeep cars. According to Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s futurist, said Gen Z buyers are “more frugal” than their older counterparts, and appreciate getting the most value for the brand of vehicle they buy. They also tend to be more nostalgic and prefer brands with a strong history.  Well, Jeep nailed that. 

Budweiser #GiveADamn / Attempted Social Conscience
At first, Dame Helen Mirren captivated the room of Gen Z teens with her forthright message about drunk driving. The teens grew fearful until this cold & fancy British woman took a swig of all-American Bud. Credibility dropped. I’m not sure this ad was for Budweiser drinkers’ social responsibility or self-preservation. Generation Z doesn’t have the time to dissect mixed messages like “don’t drink, but cheers”. Good try though chaps.

Before we know it, Generation Z will be the primary target of the Super Bowl ads, causing brands to change the way they position and produce their 30-second spots. If brands want to reach Gen Z, they need to track emerging trends among Generation Z – trends like social causes, ambitions, drinking behaviors, technology and even how they feel about animals.  It’s hard to strike a chord with Generation Z but once you do, you have the opportunity to make them sticky to your brand.








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