Gen Z Hates Ads—Unless They’re On TikTok. Here’s Why

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Gen Z Hates Ads—Unless They’re On TikTok. Here’s Why
Photo by Nik on Unsplash

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

TikTok is awash with ads. There are microinfluencers pushing products that fit the latest microtrend. There are celebrity influencers launching their skincare brands. Ads that look like they were re-purposed from high-quality videos. And ads that try to mimic casual influencer videos.

For the past few years, marketing agencies have fully shifted their strategies to prioritize TikTok. On the surface, this might seem contrary to what we know about Gen Z, which is that they hate ads. Digital consumer research firm Bulbshare found that 99% of Gen Z skips ads when given a chance, and 74% feel there are too many ads.

But TikTok ads hit differently. A Statista study from March found that 38% of TikTok users are okay with ads in exchange for being able to use the app for free. And 28% of people have bought products promoted by celebrities or influencers, which is 10% higher than other non-TikTok users. Considering that 60% of TikTok users are Gen Z, it’s clear that these percentages reflect young consumers’ habits more than any other demographic.

So what makes TikTok advertising more potent than other methods of reaching consumers?

In short, TikTok ads are so ingrained within the platform’s influencer culture ecosystem it’s nearly impossible to differentiate them from other pieces of content.

For example, an influencer’s get-ready-with-me video might highlight beauty products a creator was paid to promote or shove in completely unrelated products, like Pop-Tarts in a makeup tutorial. Because these videos look identical to many of the non-promotional content on an influencer’s account, paid promotions are indiscernible from those that are unpaid. Even videos created by brands sometimes look like they were filmed by influencers. In fact, the Statistica study found that 15% have difficulty distinguishing ads from unpaid content.

Naturally, with so much success on TikTok, brands have opted to use it as a starting point for new marketing campaigns. According to Glossy, TikTok is now the testing ground to see how video styles, tones and messages are received. Whatever works on TikTok is then re-purposed across other social media platforms, like Snapchat and Instagram.

But some brands are also trying to figure out how to integrate ideas that succeed on TikTok into other platforms. This has led to a particularly awful type of ad where something that was ostensibly filmed for TikTok is presented in the wide-screen format people are used to seeing on YouTube or on TV. Take this Tractor Supply Company ad featuring country music star Lainey Wilson riding a tractor. The company specifically made the ad, which aired during the November premiere of “Yellowstone,” to be “TikTok style” as a way to appear approachable and down-to-earth. In other words, even ads that don’t appear on TikTok are adopting the video-sharing app’s native style.

It’s unclear how successful this transfer of content is, or if someone watching TV is receptive to this video style. But it’s a relatively low-cost test since filming a “lo-fi” video for TikTok and then re-using it across other advertising channels is less expensive than creating unique content for each platform. - Kristin Snyder

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

LA Tech Week: Local Climate Investors Assess and Vet Green Startups

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

LA Tech Week: Local Climate Investors Assess and Vet Green Startups
Samson Amore

In a region known for being a national trailblazer when it comes to climate policies, there’s no shortage of green energy startups in L.A. looking for funding. There’s also a plethora of investors and incubators, which means founders looking for cash flow should be extra specific about their value proposition when they pitch to cut through the noise. At least that was the message coming from the panelists at the UCLA Anderson School of Management on Tuesday.

Read moreShow less
Here's What People Are Saying About Day Two of LA Tech Week
Evan Xie

L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.

Here's what people are saying about day two of L.A. Tech Week on social:

Read moreShow less

LA Tech Week: Goldhirsh Foundation and the Positive Effects of Technology

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech Week: Goldhirsh Foundation and the Positive Effects of Technology
Photo taken by Decerry Donato

On Monday, Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization Goldhirsh Foundation hosted the Technology and Storytelling For Social Good panel at Creative Visions studio to kick off LA Tech week.

Tara Roth, president of the foundation, moderated the panel and gathered nonprofit and tech leaders including Paul Lanctot, web developer of The Debt Collective; Alexis Cabrera, executive director of 9 Dots; Sabra Williams, co-founder of Creative Acts; and Laura Gonzalez, senior program manager of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).

Each of the panelists are grantees of Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050, an initiative launched in 2011 that is continuously trying to drive and track progress toward a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles. Goldhirsh’s vision is to make Los Angeles better for all and in order to achieve their goal, the foundation makes investments into organizations, creates partnerships and utilizes social capital through community events.

The panelists shared how the work they are doing in each of their respective sectors uses technology to solve some of society's most pressing challenges and highlight the importance of tech literacy across every community.

Read moreShow less