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Both Gen Z (18-19) and Millennials (20-36) are more likely to see social media as a relevant advertising channel than TV, banner ads and streaming video, according to the State of Digital Advertising 2018 report from Adobe Digital Insights (ADI). That stands in stark contrast to older age groups, who overwhelmingly point to TV as their most relevant channel.

Social advertising has been climbing the ranks of purchase influencers for youth, who seem largely unfazed over ad loads on social platforms.

Social media’s influence has extended beyond simply advertising, too: last year a survey found youth believing that recommendations from social media circles are more influential than TV ads. Moreover, a recent analysis indicates that conversations on social media drive an estimated 9% of consumer sales in the US.

Nonetheless, old habits die hard, and all respondent groups starting with Gen Xers continue to find TV a more relevant advertising channel than social media, per ADI’s report.

Beyond the age differences, men and women also don’t see completely eye-to-eye on this, either. TV was cited as the most relevant of the 4 channels by more than twice as many men as was social media (52% and 22%, respectively). But among women, social media was cited almost as often as TV (35% and 43%, respectively). That may not be too surprising given that women are more likely than men to use a range of social platforms.

Youth Believe Ads Are Improving in Quality

On a positive note for marketers, who are pouring money into younger generations, it’s youth who are the most likely to feel that ads are becoming more relevant.

Fully 57% of Millennials (20-36) surveyed by ADI feel that’s the case, as do 45% of Gen Z (18-19) respondents. Gen Xers are also much more likely to believe that ads have become more (41%) than less (13%) relevant over the years, though older adults are more split on the topic. Ads’ relevance is an important aspect of their memorability and enjoyment, per consumer research from Clutch.

Adobe Digital Insights also notes in its report that people who find social media most relevant are more likely to feel that ad quality has improved than those who believe that TV is their most relevant channel. That may simply be due to the ages of those who prefer these channels (youth prefer social media and are more likely to see ad quality improving), or could be due to improvements in ad relevance on social media.

But while relevance can help improve an ads’ appeal in consumers’ eyes, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee attention. Indeed, a majority of respondents believe that ads are easy to ignore, regardless of their age, gender, or feelings about trends in ads’ relevance. Furthermore, those using ad blockers don’t appear to have any significantly different perceptions about ad relevance than those not using ad blockers.

A click may not signal relevance, either, as survey respondents were as likely to have unintentionally than intentionally clicked on an ad, per the report. However, those who had intentionally clicked an ad were much more likely to believe in ads’ increasing relevance than others. This either means that improving ad relevance is pushing respondents to click, or that people who click are seeing more relevant ads.

Social for Discovery; Email for Engagement

An accompanying analysis of 183 billion visits to US websites contained in ADI’s report reveals a fascinating difference between email and social media as traffic drivers.

Looking specifically at sources of traffic for retail in the US this year, ADI notes that non-customers drive 3 times more social network traffic than customers (3% and 1% share, respectively). This suggests that social is a key vehicle for fueling awareness, as seen in survey research.

Email, for its part, is a far greater driver of traffic among customers (20% visit share) than non-customers (9% visit share). In other words, while social media may bring in non-customers, email rises as a key channel for engagement once they become customers.

Other Report Highlights

In other key findings from the report:

  • “TV is increasingly the living room internet portal,” as unique visitors from TV-connected devices grew by almost 40% year-over-year in Q4 2017;
  • TV-connected devices increased their share of video impressions from 3% in January 2017 to 7% in January 2018, with mobile video also increasing at the expense of desktop video;
  • Connected TV video ad completion rates, despite a dip to 90% in January, continue to outpace video ad completion rates on mobile (66%) and desktop (64%); and
  • The number of push notification sends by marketers grew by more than 300% between March 2017 and January 2018.

About the Data: The report is based on an:

  • An analysis of more than 183 billion visits to US websites;
  • Online video data from 12 billion plays of TV Everywhere and 9 billion ad impressions; and
  • A survey of 1,000 consumers in the US between February and March 2018.

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