Each year brings a whole new swathe of viral ad campaigns – but few have the pizzaz to resonate with the most cynical generation around. Gen Z has high standards – which makes the resounding success of these campaigns all the more impressive.
Just Eat ft. Snoop Dogg
Food delivery services were already popular among Gen Z prior to the pandemic – but as soon as that first lockdown announcement hit in 2020, delivery app orders reached stratospheric levels. While other industries scrambled to adapt to new COVID measures, food delivery services thrived. But they faced a different challenge – staying competitive in an increasingly oversaturated market.
Enter Just Eat. The key to Gen Z’s heart is a collab – and when the food delivery app brought in none other than Snoop Dogg to give their jingle a remix, they struck a rare chord with a young, cynical generation.
In a year of ads that tried their hardest to capture the emotive state of a nation in flux, it was refreshing for young people to see an ad that didn’t take itself too seriously. With a parallel influencer campaign featuring the likes of Sam Thompson lip syncing the delicious banger, and a brand-new Christmas version of the original rap, Just Eat not only succeeded in making food accessible in 2020 – it also made advertising fun. To paraphrase one of the comments on the ad’s YouTube video – which has racked up over 9m views in four months – “I never ever skip this ad”.
The oldest Gen Zs turned 24 years old this year. That means they were raised on the deluge of late nineties and early noughties advertising. Gendered campaigns were rife, and expectations were unrealistic.
Intimate care brand, Bodyform, has led the way in undoing decades of advertising stereotypes – you may remember them for being the first brand to replace their perplexing blue liquid – used as a stand-in for period blood – with a substance that was actually red. It worked well for them – especially among Gen Z.
This year, Bodyform dropped Wombstories – a three-minute foray into the highs and lows of having a womb. Slipping between multi-modal animation and real-life actors, the ad covers fertility issues, menopause, endometriosis and childbirth – and plenty of period blood. Red, of course. The campaign is inclusive, hashtaggable – and doesn’t shy away from reality. For a generation raised on idealistic intimate care ads, it’s a revelation.
Okay, so Spotify’s annual Wrapped campaign isn’t exactly new for 2020. But after a year when streaming use around Gen Z skyrocketed, all while in-person connection was at an all-time low, the latest iteration was exactly what young listeners needed.
The principle is simple – create a playlist of users’ most-played songs, drop it into their Spotify, and give them a shareable report of their listening habits from the past year. Wrapped takes personalisation to new levels – giving users a time capsule, an Instagram story and an identity marker all rolled into one.
This year, the tone of the Wrapped campaign was one of gratitude – a celebration of the artists that got listeners through long months of staying home. New features included a metric which showed users if they fell within the top 1%, 0.5%, and even 0.05% of an artist’s listeners – a clever nod to Gen Z “stan” culture.
Ryanair’s entire TikTok feed
Considering we entered 2021 with yet another lockdown looming, Ryanair was certainly going places. The budget airline grappled with travel restrictions and grounded flights like the rest of the country. But elsewhere, on TikTok, things were… taking off.
Until recently, TikTok was fairly uncharted territory for brands looking to run their own organic socials. Ryanair’s original, down-to-earth and occasionally bizarre content makes them something of a pioneer. Weird humour, creative use of TikTok sounds and not being afraid to call out competitors are all very Gen Z ways of behaving – and no doubt will secure their status as airline of choice once the skies open up again.
Starface and the arrival of Big Yellow
If we know anything about Gen Z, it’s that they’re all about keeping it real. And what could be more authentic than showcasing your acne rather than disguising it?
Starface speaks to Gen Z like no other skincare brand out there. By creating a pimple product that demands to be included in their selfies rather than filtered out, that also taps into the nostalgic nature (gold star, anyone?), the cult brand created a buzz that’s underpinned by a savvy retargeted social media campaign. The result? Constellations of yellow stars dominating Gen Z selfies everywhere.
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