By Jayne Charneski and Jamie Farnsworth Finn
Last week, the gripping “Dear America” PSA won an Emmy award in the student category. Starring, produced and written by members of Generation Z, the short film is an open letter on gun violence from members of Gen Z to the rest of America. Nothing about it feels amateur. It has a diverse cast of young people, talking directly to the camera about waiting to become the next school shooting victims. There are tracking shots worthy of an opening in a feature film, and prose that could move even the most cold-hearted viewer. We dare you to watch it without tissues.
Beyond its cinematic prowess, there’s actually a more bottom-line focused lesson marketers can take away from the film; Gen Zs are natural creators. Like some generations prior, many Zs were creating their own videos, music and art in elementary school. But unlike those of us born in earlier generations where our art existed only to be hung on the kitchen fridge, they’ve been sharing that content on social platforms for years. They’re used to seeing their content next to brands’ content on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitch streams. As such, they don’t differentiate between platforms and mediums as much as past generations.
They’re in a constant state of engaging, sharing, and making. And the thing is, they’re really good at creating. They understand storytelling techniques and what goes into creating a perfect shot. They love to see stories that that play on existing tropes in new ways. They’re mindful about authenticity – they can tell when something is highly produced versus thrown together on the fly. That said, not everything needs to be picture-perfect for Zs. In fact, they love to see behind the scenes, raw, authentic life. It’s because they’re aware of the creation process that they can tell when something that’s supposed to seem casual or off-the-cuff is actually highly produced, and that inauthenticity is a major turn-off. Because of all of this, they aren’t as satisfied to simply watch a commercial. They want to feel a part of the process. They expect to interact with brands they love, and they want to collaborate with them. They love to answer questions, weigh in with their opinions, and feel like they play a role in the brand’s direction. The more you can involve Zs in the process, the more they’ll respond to your brand. So the next time you’re thinking through a major new product launch or campaign, think about tapping into Gen Z creators, get advice where you can, learn from their techniques, and be authentic. They’ll value your brand more for it and you may learn something. Afterall, some Zs are already winning awards for their films and they’re still in high school.