How Twitch is gaming Generation Z

They hate ads, but the Amazon game-streaming service could be one way to reach these untapped consumers.

Picture this. You’re an established FMCG brand, you already have your suite of Generation Z-friendly social channels set up and your influencer strategy is on fire. But there’s one issue you can’t avoid: overcoming the Gen Z scale problem.  

There’s no escaping it: Gen Z hate ads. Almost 70% of Gen Z find them disruptive and – even more damning – 43% are actively using ad-blockers, opting instead for ad-free alternatives such as Netflix (71%, to be precise).  

This increased ad-blocker use means tapping into the 18-24 contingent (males especially) has never been tougher. We’re seeing less return on those hard-earned ad dollars and greater spend wastage as we push quality branded content gold out into the Gen Z void.

As consumer behaviour is becoming more dynamic, brands are falling behind in terms of their channel agility. Budgetary pressure and KPI paralysis are largely to blame for the lack of experimentation in platforms outside the traditional arsenal. I mean, if you can’t prove the return of your marketing prowess to Debra in finance, what’s the point?

The point is that there are potentially millions of untapped consumers hiding in newer channels. One of these, on the tongue of every industry hype beast, is the Amazon-owned game-streaming service Twitch, which boasts more than two million unique streamers per month and attracts 15 million active daily viewers with an engagement rate of 106 minutes watched per person per day.

But is it worth the hype?

There are a few forces to consider before going all in on Twitch. The biggie: do you have a right to play there? There’s bravery in not being enticed by industry folk telling you it’s a good idea (remember Meerkat? Exactly). It’s not enough to simply want to target this demographic; you need to be thinking about what value you can authentically add for them. 

Furthermore, there’s the issue of brand safety: how do you feel about handing over your brand narrative to one of 27,000-plus Twitch streamers? A hands-off approach creates the most authentic result – unlike other social channels, control sits with the streamers, who have full creative licence to do and say what they like with regard to your ad (within platform guidelines). Brand integrity can be put at risk by an ill-thought-out campaign on a platform of this size. Even seemingly untouchable brands such as KFC went all in with an idea that ended up being appropriated by viewers in a pretty racist way. It pays to read the room.

In terms of creative, a simple copy-paste job won’t fly here: Old Spice set the bar with its "Nature adventure" campaign, which utilised the concept of chat-driven video by making the viewer a part of the story rather than a passive spectator. Then there’s Pepsi, which went all in and created the original content series "PepsiCo’s 7-Eleven summer series", complete with its own gaming tournament.  

Much like its social channel predecessors, tactical investment from brands pays dividends – but this doesn’t necessarily mean those who splash the most cash will win (here’s looking at you, Facebook). Rather than taking the time to understand the mechanics, the channel and the talent are seen to be the key to success.

In reality, partnering the right influencer (or streamer, in this case) will exponentially increase the likelihood of a positive reaction to an ad slot or channel campaign. The campaign will look more authentic, the influencer will be able to seamlessly integrate your creative and you’ll reap your rewards in increased spectator engagement (especially when you make them a part of the story à la Old Spice and Pepsi).

So is it worth the effort? Yes: the gains can be huge for brands in connecting with a notoriously tough demographic, all while avoiding wasting precious adspend on other channels.

But don’t go pulling all your spend from elsewhere just yet. Twitch is still a specialist channel that has yet to see the mass appeal of its Mark Zuckerburg-owned counterparts. Use it to experiment and tap into unchartered audiences, but don’t fire your media agency (just yet). 

Charlotte Willcocks is a strategist at Impero

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