Young Consumers May Use Ad Blockers, but That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Like Seeing Brands Online

They just want companies to respect their digital space

Defy Media is a multichannel network that works with creators like ClevverTV who attract a younger audience. ClevverTV
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Even though younger generations are more likely to use ad blockers or skip ads when they can, they’re also incredibly responsive to informative and socially-relevant brand presences online.

According to a new study conducted by Defy Media’s Acumen Research and TMI Strategy, young consumers get annoyed by ads that interrupt their viewing or social media experience but are receptive to ads or brands that respect their online space.

Of the more than 1,300 participants aged 13 to 25 years old, 66 percent use an ad blocker on at least one device.

Despite blocking ads a majority of the time, 80 percent understand that ads on the internet are a “regular part of life,” and a whopping 84 percent say they’re not willing to pay for an ad-free experience all of the time.

“These numbers aren’t all doom and gloom for the ad world,” said Defy Media CMO Andy Tu. “But it’s a dose of reality for executives. The old way of doing things isn’t going to fly with young people anymore.”

Even though people block a large amount of ads, around 62 percent actually follow at least one brand on social media on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The impulse to follow brands primarily comes from wanting to find out more information about the product or service, and then to keep up with promotions or news about it.

“They’ll also easily stop following a brand if they feel turned off by it,” said Tu. “If it feels boring or repetitive, or if it clogs your feed by constantly purveying content.”

In addition to annoying content, these young consumers will also unfollow brands if they don’t like or agree with its political, environmental or social stance. Around 34 percent of respondents felt that way about the responsibility of brands they follow online. More than half (53 percent) said they will stop buying a brand if it doesn’t live up to their expectations of social responsibility.

“It’s not that young people are cognizant of their purchase power in real time as they use it,” said Tu. “They just don’t know any other way. They’ve been able to listen to any song, anywhere, without buying the album, or watch any video when they wanted to.”

“Marketers have been playing from an old playbook, and now some headlines show millennials leading the demise of our whole population,” he said. “The brands to watch for are the ones who have never advertised on television in the first place. When I look at them, I’m way less scared about the future.”

Defy Media presented these results and more conclusions at VidCon in Anaheim, Calif., on Thursday.

@samimain Sami Main is social editor for Adweek, where she posts Adweek content onto social platforms and looks for creative ways to communicate what's new.