The new generation can help shape a more responsible future

Young consumers and the new generation of talent in our industry will be key in helping advertising promote a more positive society.

On 30 January, at the advertising industry’s annual summit, LEAD 2020, we launched the latest in the Advertising Pays series of reports, which examine the economic and social impact of advertising in the UK. Advertising Pays 8 looks for the first time at the social contribution made by advertising and how it can change people’s perceptions of our industry, and now we’re taking its findings on a roadshow around our industry.  

Reviewing the data, something in particular stands out. Younger people aged 16-24 are much more likely to be positive towards advertising (half of young people are positive versus under a quarter of those aged 55+). Additionally, over 50% of young people trust advertising, as opposed to 33% of those aged 55+. 

This is in itself is not a surprise. We have seen time and time again in our public-facing research that the older a person gets, the more dismissive they tend to be of advertising. It may be because a lot of advertising is still made by and for a younger audience. The young also tend to be more open to new ideas, as they haven’t accumulated a lifetime of consumer preferences. 

However, younger people’s more forgiving attitudes towards advertising and their greater expectations of the industry present a chance to improve overall favourability. 

This may take some work though. In Credos’ 2016 report entitled State of the Nation (which investigated how responsible the public, industry and government viewed the industry as being), a third of young leaders were embarrassed to say they worked in the advertising industry. However, in other research, Credos found 91% of entry-level industry members felt it was very important for the industry to contribute to society. Additionally, 96% of entry-level industry members said working on advertising that promoted a positive society improved their job satisfaction. This is substantially higher than the industry average of 70%.

On the flip side, 41% (the highest level) felt that the industry rarely did enough to promote a more positive society and 47% said they "seldom saw adverts" promoting social contributions that felt "authentic". 

So, what can be done to improve the industry’s profile when it comes to promoting a more positive society? 

Two issues stand out above all others – mental health and the environment. Our research has found that 53% of people aged 16-24 think advertising should spend more time promoting environmental issues. Secondly, 71% want advertising to focus on promoting awareness of mental health and of this, 49% want much more focus on mental health. 

It was no surprise to see these issues rise to the top. Whether it is concerns around the global climate crisis, or increasingly public conversations about mental health, it’s clear that these topics are at the front of the public’s minds. Based on our research, it is obvious that the public, and especially the younger generation, believe advertising has a role to play in driving society forward. 

Younger consumers’ views will shape the future of our industry, as will the new generation of talent working in our industry. We must listen to them – the public and our industry’s professionals – and all of us build an industry that meets what they want it to be.

Karen Fraser is director of Credos

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