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If Gen Z is your audience, you must understand what they are going through: Anshul Ailawadi of MTV

Anshul Ailawadi, Head, Youth Music and English Entertainment at Viacom18, discusses how brands need to understand the young generation’s wants and needs, especially after the pandemic period, if they want to reach them in an effective manner

Anshul Ailawadi

MTV Insights Studio recently launched its 2021 youth marketing study titled ‘Atmanirbhar by Circumstance’, a go-to handbook on Gen Z for marketers and brands. The studio carries out this research every two years to study behavioural changes among the youth in a bid to help marketers in communicate effectively to the young generation.

In an interaction with, Anshul Ailawadi, Head, Youth Music and English Entertainment at Viacom18, said this is the only in-depth study that focuses on Gen Z and how they have evolved throughout the pandemic.

Ailawadi spoke about how marketers can use the findings effectively to design their strategies and steer their communication in the correct direction.

“If you're a brand, or a platform, or a publisher, or a creator, it doesn't matter. If Gen Z is the audience, then you definitely need to understand what they are going through at this point. This is the only such deep insight that one can possibly get. Whether it's crafting your messages, creating products, understanding why you exist, this is the body of work you must look at,” he said.

The report covers 50 Indian cities across NCCS A, B, and C with over 26,000 respondents aged 15 to 25 years. It covers topics ranging from education, money, romance, national interests, content, family, friends, and spirituality, and Covid-19 Outlook.

The report has some interesting findings, like 46% of Gen Z feels money is extremely important. 46% said they would rather focus on being rich and successful instead of living a meaningful life, up from 25% in 2019.

“This is the first such study after the first wave of the pandemic. There is nothing that tells you more about what the Gen Z constituencies are thinking at this point in time. So this study will push the boundaries in terms of what we think we understand,” he said.

Speaking about the findings, Ailawadi said brands in the finance and investing industry that are increasingly getting active with their advertising must focus on Gen Z.

“I think it's clear that 2020 has been a pivotal year in many ways. We cannot be entirely sure about this but it's possible the pandemic has forced people to think about monetary security in some way or the other. I think Gen Z is a vulnerable group, they are between 15-25 year olds who have seen people face challenges on the health and professional front. On the one hand they're seeing all of this, and on the other, they can see that a lot of their role models and icons are living a good life by being just that (role models and icons).”

“We have come together to create opportunities for brands that will look at becoming the big savers of tomorrow. Today their earnings are limited, they are spending a lot. I think it's an opportunity for them to understand how to tailor their offerings in a way that when these people do earn a good amount of money, how do they give them the right proposition in terms of growing it, saving it, so on and so forth,” he said.

The report says that more and more youngsters are less likely to date someone they meet online. Ailawadi spoke about how dating apps must focus their energies on being offline if their users want that.

“It depends on the dating apps; each of them has a different proposition. I think if I were looking at this service, I would certainly look at ways to make the online process more offline. Across the country, there has been this age-old way of connecting people through family and societal networks. These are the networks where there's a fair amount of guarantees, where there's some built-in credibility. If I were a dating app, I would think about how to ramp up the credibility aspect of my offering assuming people want that.”

The research says 43% of the youth think music is the number 1 escape route and consider it extremely important. Asked how they are using these insights being a traditional music channel, he said they launched a show named ‘Academy Unwind’ on YouTube last month, based on exactly this thought.

“Sometimes people don’t realise we have not gotten out of music. We have MTV music, which is the number one contemporary Hindi music channel, which is doing exactly that. It's just that we felt that there's a separate need to have a dedicated brand and that is why MTV Beats was born. On MTV flagship, we can do whatever we want to. We do some experiments, we do some music and we will continue. We are not vacating music,” he explained.

Ailawadi explained that while attention spans are said to be getting shorter among the young, it is also seen that the same youth can sit back and binge-watch their favourite web series for hours. When you want to promote or market something that's a 32-second commercial or a 60-second commercial today, it's a one-second scroll away, he said. “From a promotional and marketing perspective, yes, attention spans are shorter. You have very little time to communicate a lot more.”

Speaking about their digital strategy and the response in the past two years, he said at MTV they believe in being present everywhere and the consumer will follow the story. He said aggregate viewership has grown for MTV across television, Voot and YouTube.

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