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Viacom dispels stereotypes and reveals actionable insights with its “Generations” study

August 15, 2019 | By Maureen Morrison, Independent Marketing Consultant @maureenmorrison

As data and becomes more important for advertisers and other players in the ecosystem, media companies strive to provide more insights that illustrate their understanding of their audiences. One such company is Viacom, whose global insights team launched a research project this year called Generations.

The project includes videos that aim to dispel some stereotypes of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Gen Z. “We’ve all heard the terms Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers,” begins a video introducing the research. “But what do you really know about these groups? A lot of what we think we know is based on opinions, assumptions or stereotypes, instead of real data.”

Insights for everyone

Research spanning generations is a broad topic. However, Colleen Fahey Rush, chief research officer at Viacom, said that the Generations project “helps our company and our partners to better understand how people of all age ranges and demographic groups see the world. Plus, they allow our brands and businesses to stay ahead of the trends to make sure the stories we tell are resonating with our audiences.”

The videos can be seen on Viacom’s website, though the company said it shares much more detailed research with advertisers, agencies, distribution companies, and other partners. “We see it as our mission to understand how our audiences see the world and how that affects their attitudes. This allows us to stay ahead of the curve and ensure that the content we create continues to resonate with our viewers,” said Rush.

Research that informs the business

Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, MTC, BET, CMT, and Nickelodeon, has done a number of large-scale studies, which have found emerging trends among its audiences around the world. “Viacom differentiates itself from other media and content companies with its longstanding legacy of data and insights, giving us a competitive advantage in the industry,” said Rush.

She added that Viacom also sees Generations as “one of the added benefits of collaborating with Viacom. We are committed to knowing our audiences and sharing that knowledge with partners.” This allows them to “craft messages, products and propositions together that best speak to consumers.”

A spokeswoman for Viacom said that Generations was conducted by Viacom’s Global Consumer Insights group, which is not exclusively tied to advertising sales. Therefore, the research is not solely focused on the needs of marketers, nor can the company quanity how it directly impacts ad sales. Viacom Velocity, which sits within Ad Solutions, is primarily responsible for driving the company’s Madison-Avenue related research.

This week, Viacom reported that ad sales rose 6% to $976 million in its most recent quarter, marking “the first growth in ad revenue for the home of MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central since the third quarter of 2014,” according to Ad Age.

Lessons to be learned

Viacom said that last year alone its research “connected with over 1.8 million kids, teens, young adults and adults through consumer insights, covering 79 countries globally, from Sweden to South Africa and Argentina to Australia.” 

Key takeaways from the Generations study include:

  • The stereotype in media and marketing is that Boomers are feeble grey-haired people living in retirement homes. “We know people are living much more active lives for longer than ever before,” according to a Generations video. Viacom also noted that the boomer stereotype that they’re all technically inept is false. In fact, many are much more tech-savvy than people realize.
  • As Gen Xers were growing up, new technology, communications, and cable TV channels like Viacom-owned MTV were spreading American culture around the world. The result is that Gen X a single global generation, with more cultural interests in common than previous generations.
  • According to Generations, the biggest misconception about Millennials is that they’re “lazy, no good for anything and that they’re spoiled,” according to Christian Kurz, SVP of Viacom’s Global Consumer Insights. Instead, he said, many don’t have much money, they’re very entrepreneurial, open-minded, and prospering in the face of adversity.
  • Born after 1997, Gen Z account for 25% of the U.S. population and 33% of the global population. By 2020, they will account for 40% of U.S. consumers. Since they are still growing up, Viacom said not much is known about them. However, they predict that events like climate change, Brexit, and the elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump will surely impact their lives, the extent to which we don’t yet know. The Gen Z Generations video noted that growing up in an increasingly fractured world can lead to stress and anxiety. And, Viacom reports that Gen Z is the most diverse U.S. generation we’ve had yet.

About the author

Maureen Morrison is a writer and consultant, working with agencies, startups, publishers and brands on editorial strategies. She previously was a reporter and editor at Ad Age for 12 years, covering agencies, digital media, technology and marketers.

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