Dove's newest ad, a montage of men finding out they're going to be dads, has made headlines as viewers around the world shed a collective happy tear. The commercial, which is part of Dove's Men+Care campaign, is a compilation of real home videos found online.
The ad's "real" factor reflects a greater shift in the advertising industry, as research finds that Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z all place a high value on authenticity in marketing.
“Generation X is uniquely positioned. They know what they want and what they like and most importantly who they are,” says Joe Stagaman, EVP, Advertising Effectiveness Analytics for Nielsen. “Recognizing this creates an opportunity for marketers to appeal to this population with a genuine and realistic campaign that Gen Xers can identify with.”
According to Nielsen research, Gen Xers respond especially well to everyday household and family activities. Females prefer sentimental ads that focus on milestone events, and males enjoy low-key ads featuring "All-American" men working around the house.
Millennials also appreciate authenticity. In a recent NPR focus group, Millennials discussed their favorite commercials. One participant said she disliked Kia's "hip-hop hamsters" campaign because "they're trying so hard. And that kind of turns us off because there's a lack of authenticity." Another participant was "super sick" of ads featuring tall, thin people.
What appealed to them most, they said, were "subtle" campaigns and those that raise awareness of social issues, such as the Cheerios ad featuring a real-life same-sex couple.
According to Ruth Bernstein, co-founder of advertising agency Yard, Generation Z may value realism even more.
"Gen Zers are the least likely to believe there is such a thing as the 'American Dream.' They look for products and messaging that reflect a reality rather than a perfect life," Ms. Bernstein writes in Advertising Age. "Gen Zers simply don't respond to these traditional notions of beauty or a projected image of perfection like past generations have."
The vast majority of advertising today is aimed at Generation X and younger consumers. A Nielsen report shows that despite the fact that consumers age 50 and above spend close to 50% of all CPG (consumer packaged goods) dollars, less than 5% of advertising is geared toward them.