Teens today have more entertainment options at their fingertips — literally and figuratively — than any generation of youth before them. It’s for exactly this reason that traditional entertainment industries are so worried about how to attract and retain young audiences. Many forms of traditional entertainment are declining: more than a quarter of teens don’t watch live TV and among those who do, live TV accounts for a scant 7% of their entertainment time spend, according to our “The Entertainers Report.” In addition, whereas a growing number of Millennials have become cord cutters, half of Gen Zs are
Many forms of traditional entertainment are declining: more than a quarter of teens don’t watch live TV and among those who do, live TV accounts for a scant 7% of their entertainment time spend, according to our “The Entertainers Report.” In addition, whereas a growing number of Millennials have become cord cutters, half of Gen Zs are cord-nevers, having grown up in households where they didn't experience life with cable. As a result,
As a result, marketers and advertisers are often confused as to which entertainment platforms to leverage in trying to reach teens. While teens are commonly immersed in their digital devices using social media or glued to video games, surprisingly, movies are still a strong draw for teens, not only on streaming platforms but also in theaters.
Other erstwhile teen hangouts, such as the mall, have lost teens’ interest of late, but you’ll still find young people loitering around movie theaters. According to our research, fully 84% of teens aged 14 to 19 have seen a movie in a theater in the prior three months. The draw is not only what’s on screen, but also the experience itself. Theaters have done a better job than malls have in ensuring that food options and concessions, which are a key source of income, are up-to-date with modern tastes.
Going to the movies is also an opportunity for teens to engage in a social activity without actually having to socialize, which can stress out a young generation that struggles with EQ (emotional intelligence). They don’t have to say much, if anything, as the film rolls, and afterward, the film provides a topic of conversation that they can easily engage in. This compares to other social occasions — such as going to the mall with friends — where they have to come up with topics to discuss and run the risk of feeling uninformed or out of the loop with whatever their friends may bring up.
The story also matters to teens: 59% say that movies are a very important or critical part of their lives. It follows then that teens are more likely than Millennials to say they see movies in theaters because they don’t want to wait until they hit streaming or TV networks and because they don’t want others to spoil the story for them.
The stories engage teens not only because they offer glimpses of fantastical worlds but also because, whether consciously or subconsciously, they offer a means for young people to witness diverse social behaviors and their outcomes and form opinions about what does or doesn’t fit their moral code. This differs from TV because they’re more likely to experience movies with friends and to discuss the film together after.
Movies also offer an essential refuge for modern teens: an escape from boredom. Having been bombarded with stimuli from birth, facing boredom is akin to staring down a super villain. Watching a film fills a significant part of teens’ days. Even after the initial thrill of seeing a movie for the first time, they don’t mind watching it again when it hits Netflix because it means they’re occupied with something enjoyable. Teens are far more likely than Millennials to say they binge-watch films to avoid boredom and as a tool to put off less enjoyable tasks, like homework.
Other forms of traditional media are falling out of favor and losing their relevance, but movies can still capture the attention of fickle teens. The challenge for marketers is to find new ways to leverage the medium in campaigns. Sure, traditional ads that run before previews in movie theaters can engage the captive audience, but teens expect more from marketing than a typical 30-second spot.
Movies are immersive, and advertisers need to tap into that element when designing campaigns around films. There are many opportunities for brands to up their game and create entertainment that's as engaging as what youth pay to see in theaters. As all forms of media have become more cinematic, marketing campaigns need to move beyond simple messages of functionality and deals to incorporate more lifestyle and story elements.
Additionally, young people want to see brands give them creative control after they release content, granting them access to the stories and characters they love. Consider offering campaigns that enable and encourage teens to add their own stamp to entertainment properties and provide another outlet for their self-expression.