New York, NY, 19.10.2022

Baby Boomers, Gen X more likely to notice, watch brand purpose ads – GfK study

Brands and agencies have long assumed that younger generations are driving the brand purpose movement – insisting that brands need to show strong, real-world support for social causes. But a new study from GfK shows that, when it comes to advertising, older consumers may pay more attention to purpose creatives than do their younger counterparts.  

Download a new report based on this generational analysis

The study compared 20 brand purpose ads from major brands on metrics relating to brand awareness and imprint, as well as a battery of emotional and intellectual reactions – from “is making my life better” to “inspires me to be part of the change.” The study utilized GfK’s Ad Fit Optimizer (AFO) creative testing system and leveraged the notion of “transformational” purpose ads developed by Thomas Kolster and Goodvertising Agency.

The study shows that Generation X (ages 41 to 60) is most likely to notice and then continue watching a purpose ad – followed closely by Baby Boomers (ages 61+). (See Chart 1.) Generation Z (18 to 24) and Millennials (25 to 40) scored much lower on these basic metrics of attention to the ads.

Chart 1. Hook and hold of purpose ads, by generation

But when comparing only viewers who had noticed and stuck with the ads, GfK found that Gen Z and Millennials were more likely to say that the creatives made them want to “talk, learn or do something” about the subjects of the ads. (See Chart 2.)

Chart 2. More likely to want to talk, learn, or do something about what they viewed – by generations

 The study also shows that purpose ads have a stronger emotional impact on Gen Z and Millennials, as registered by statements such as “inspires me to be part of the change” and “is making my life better.” (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Purpose ad impact statements – by generation


The study also shows that “transformational” purpose ads – those that focus on consumer achievements and empowerment, rather than the brand’s own heroism – had a stronger emotional impact across a number of key questions.  (See Table 2.) GfK found clearly significant differences on statements such as “makes me feel empowered by the message” and “message sets it apart from others in the same category.”

Table 2. Brand impact: Traditional vs. Transformational purpose ads

Clearly, Gen Z and Millennials expect action and transformation from companies around brand purpose,” said Eric Villain, Client Solutions Director for Marketing Effectiveness at GfK. “Using a multi-media communication program – to break through the plethora of ad messages – is essential for involving this group. Adding shorter, more active communication and messages will enhance breakthrough and lead to better recall and engagement.” 

"Purpose can still throw punches – especially among older generations,” said Kolster, who is founder and director of Goodvertising Agency. “Yet, the message is clear: Younger generations want to play a part. This is an opportunity brands can’t miss taking." 

Using its proprietary Ad Fit Optimizer (AFO) ad testing solution, GfK surveyed 2,408 respondents and measured 20 advertisements, divided equally between traditional purpose branding and transformational branding ads. Field dates were March 28th to 31st, 2022.

GfK. Growth from Knowledge.

For over 85 years, we have earned the trust of our clients around the world by solving critical business questions in their decision-making process around consumers, markets, brands and media. Our reliable data and insights, together with advanced AI capabilities, have revolutionized access to real-time actionable recommendations that drive marketing, sales and organizational effectiveness of our clients and partners. That’s how we promise and deliver “Growth from Knowledge.”

Goodvertising Agency – catalysts for positive change since 2009

Since 2010, Goodvertising Agency have been pioneers in showcasing a different way forward, sparking a global movement for meaningful growth. Founded by global thought-leader and purpose-pioneer Thomas Kolster, Goodvertising is a worldwide player working across the marketing and advertising ecosystem – from brands, agencies, media to industry bodies. Its proprietary strategic tools for brand transformation are globally used, and its change programs have inspired and shifted minds and behaviors in more than 70 markets. Goodvertising‘s creative lab keeps challenging the status quo on a search for new ways to create impact.

For more information, please visit or follow Thomas Kolster on Twitter


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