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New ad breaks: how to reach Gen Z and millennials

New approaches to traditional advertising techniques are helping fashion brands to reach customers in fresh ways. 

On the pages of the magazines and newspapers you read, on posters and digital screens at the station, on the sides of passing taxis and buses, on billboards in the street, as you settle down to watch your favourite TV show, in your Instagram feed, and even in some video games – adverts for fashion are everywhere.

Brands are increasingly taking a scattergun approach to marketing, spreading their spend across different platforms as they seek to capture customers at numerous touchpoints. While social media remains crucial, there has been a resurgence of some tried-and-tested forms of marketing, such as print advertising and TV product placement, alongside investment in innovative new ways of getting the message across. 

Frances Griffin, senior strategist at marketing and consumer activation agency MullenLowe Open, describes this as “smart creative” – using traditional channels in smarter ways: “It’s about making sure that every possible place where the brand will be seen has a relevant and consistent communication. There’s a lot of focus on the bigger picture. You’re not just looking online or in store, but at the holistic consumer journey from first awareness through to the tills.

It’s about making sure that every possible place where the brand will be seen has a relevant and consistent communication 

Frances Griffin, senior strategist at marketing and consumer activation agency MullenLowe Open

“A brand might have used Instagram for years, but now it’s more about combining amazing creative [content] with a targeted, relevant strategy, so you know that your message will land and resonate with the right people at the right time.”

Womenswear retailer Warehouse is among those reviewing their marketing strategies for 2020. Social media has been a key focus this year, but brand communications director Jill Gate says the team asked itself: “If Instagram disappeared overnight, how [would] we continue to talk to our customers?”

The new old

Perhaps unexpectedly, this has resulted in a renewed consideration of print advertising, among other channels.


Source: Transport Media

“The print market is waning because there are fewer titles. However, there are still some quality titles that people are buying into,” explains Gate. “There is a slight return to the ‘life that was’: buying that nice magazine for the table, buying that hardback book. We can’t ignore that. It’s a shift in customer mindset and the world we live in.

You don’t need a huge amount of money to tell a story. You need to connect with people by talking in the right channels at the right time 

Jill Gate, brand communications director, Warehouse

“What is important to us is listening to the voice of our customer. You don’t need a huge amount of money to tell a story. You need to connect with people by talking in the right channels at the right time.”

Young fashion brand I Saw It First’s tie-up with reality ITV2 show Love Island also proved the ongoing pulling power of TV advertising. Sales of products featured on the show, which ran from 3 June to 29 July, increased by up to 600%.

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I Saw It First provided dedicated Love Island content

“It’s product placement and then some,” says Charlotte Rogers, senior writer at advertising trade publication Marketing Week. “Ramping it up so not only can you see the clothes [on TV] but there is a dedicated micro-site linked to it, where you can shop the clothes and see the cast wearing them. It was a very shrewd move to bring the brand front and centre in a show like that, in a way that feels natural, especially in such a congested market.”

Demographic reach

Insight company Enders Analysis estimates that the overall UK TV ad industry is worth £4bn a year. Not only that, but it can offer solid return on investment. In a survey of 2,000 campaigns, Thinkbox, the trade body for TV, found that the channel offers a return on investment of £4.20 over three years for each £1 spent.

Depending on the programme, advertisers can target a huge array of demographics with TV ads. For example, the audience watching Love Island on catch-up streaming service ITV Hub will be hugely different from those watching the Ashes live on Sky Sports. Size-inclusive menswear brand Jacamo, part of the N Brown Group, ran a campaign with Sky Sports during July and August with the aim of reaching men aged 25 to 44. 

We still see TV as an effective channel, and it is one of the best ways of reaching our audience at scale 

Kenyatte Nelson, chief brand officer of N Brown Group

“We still see TV as an effective channel, and it is one of the best ways of reaching our audience at scale,” explains Kenyatte Nelson, chief brand officer of N Brown Group. “For many of our brands, TV is one of our most effective channels, particularly in terms of increasing market penetration through customer acquisition.”

He explains that despite its benefits, the changing ways people watch TV mean that market still requires an innovative and focused approach. Jacamo’s campaign with Sky Sports, for example, played out across regular TV, on-demand platforms and digital (including Sky Sports website takeovers), hitting TV watchers across numerous touchpoints – no matter how they chose to watch. 

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Jacamo ran a TV campaign during the AShes featuring  

“The breath of the media offer in the AV [audiovisual]/TV space is rapidly evolving, and media owners are much more open to innovative investment models,” he says. “Like any other channel, we should be clear about our objectives, be customer centric in our approach to media and message, and measure performance, so we can calibrate and optimise over time.”

Game theory

Appealing to another demographic, video games provide a way to connect with a young, engaged audience: the thriving online gaming community has millions of members across the world, who watch other gamers compete in games such as Fortnite and FIFA.

Twitch, a social media streaming platform dedicated to gaming, has more than 15 million active members, and the audience for the finals of the Fortnite World Cup in July peaked at 2.3 million people on YouTube and Twitch. The winner – a 16-year-old from the US – took home a prize of $3m (£2.7m).

“Young people use Fortnite as a new form of social media. It’s where they hang out now after school. It is very culturally important,” says Rogers. “Integrating your brand into a platform like that is very savvy.” Sportswear giants such as Nike are already exploring advertising through the game. In May, it launched a “skin” – digital outfit – of its Air Jordan trainers into Fortnite, so gamers can play with their avatars “wearing” Nike products. They can also unlock new skins by completing challenges.

“It’s not interrupting their experience,” adds Rogers. “It’s enhancing the experience and building brand loyalty. For a streetwear brand targeting Gen Z, it could be a good opportunity.”


Fortnite is a new channel for advertising to reach young gamers

Street style

As well as reaching customers in their homes as they watch TV and play games, fashion brands are deploying out-of-home (OOH) channels, such as billboards, transport advertising and digital screens, to create an “omnipresence”. Developments in 5G super-fast mobile technology could have a huge impact on the sector. 

“It should allow OOH to be more creative,” notes Kelly Byrne, commercial director at fast fashion etailer Nasty Gal. “It’s a channel that’s still seen as pretty traditional, and a lot of the big players dominate the space. But [5G] could lead to more immersive campaigns, or target mobile ads around key placements to re-target the customer who may have seen a billboard with relevant products.”

However, 5G was only launched this year and by the end of 2019 mobile provider EE estimates that just 15% of the population will be covered by the 5G network. Only eight mobile phone models on sale in the UK are currently 5G-ready, and must be on the EE network to access super-high internet speeds. As such, it is not yet an essential area for marketing spend.

It’s important that we occupy the same spaces as our consumer and have presence across their journey 

Kelly Byrne, commercial director at Nasty Gal

Despite this, digital OOH advertising using digital screens and billboards is steadily growing. Outdoor media analytics company Route estimates the medium generates 36% more customer “impacts” than it did 12 months ago, creating 1 billion impacts a week. As such, integrating the tool into a wider marketing mix can be a smart strategy – especially in harmony with other platforms to create a wide-reaching, high-impact campaign.

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Source: Transport Media

“Each platform serves a different purpose, and we will adopt different strategies depending on what the overall goal is,” notes Byrne. “For example, for a big brand launch we may employ more traditional forms of high-impact media, such as TV or OOH, whereas smaller weekly or seasonal trend messages would be pushed out primarily across digital performance and social channels. It’s important that we occupy the same spaces as our consumer and have presence across their journey.”

In today’s retail climate, marketing budgets are tight and investment is heavily scrutinised. Traditional channels such as TV, print and OOH still hold value for retailers, but must be considered in new ways to reflect the changing ways the consumer interacts with each medium. With purpose-driven, closely targeted campaigns, brands can become part of their consumers’ lives in more subtle ways than ever before, at multiple touchpoints.  

Coco de Mer's Waris Icons campaign

Coco de Mer’s Waris Dirie Icons campaign drew attention to FGM (female genital mutilation)

Brand messaging for good causes

As well as carefully considering their channel mix, it is vital for brands and retailers to align their messaging to their customers’ expectations. Marketers are responding to consumer demand for sustainable, transparent practices by promoting social justice causes and working with charities.

In March this year, lingerie brand Coco de Mer launched a campaign with activist and campaigner Waris Dirie and her charity the Desert Flower Foundation, which combats female genital mutilation (FGM).

Brands and retailers with a loyal customer base are finding that they can make a difference

Lucy Litwack, Coco de Mer

“The core of the Coco de Mer brand has always revolved around female empowerment and the importance of female pleasure – and FGM is a direct disabler of this,” explains CEO Lucy Litwack. “Our collaborations with women’s charities and key initiatives allow us to drive this passion forward, while also providing a narrative around the issues we believe should be given more attention, such as FGM.

“Brands and retailers with a loyal customer base are finding that they can make a difference, and consumers can feel more engaged with a brand if they support similar issues. Purpose can indeed drive profit.”

Julian Kynaston, founder of brand consultancy group The Propaganda Agency, which has worked with brands including Gym King, Clipper and Ann Summers, says: “Brands with real purpose – who can demonstrate what they care about and what they are doing about their passions – are the ones that consumers care about, talk about, and build long-term relationships with.”

He highlights outdoor brand Patagonia’s “Don’t buy this jacket” campaign, which encouraged customers to repair, re-use or recycle their clothing, as another example: “Their purpose connects directly with doing what’s important for the planet – not just their profits – so it builds credibility and confidence in the brand.”




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