Reaching Gen Z during back to school: 3 lessons to learn from Grammarly
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Reaching Gen Z during back to school: 3 lessons to learn from GrammarlyJune 2023
In its inspirational YouTube ad campaign, Grammarly, alongside Ghost Note and Google Creative Works, tapped into Gen Z humor and trends to reach its key audience. “We wanted to create a world that had its humorous moments but also spoke to things that are important for Gen Z,” said Victoria Vargas, supervising producer at Ghost Note.
Using YouTube best practices, the brand and its partners delivered a relatable back-to-school campaign, giving students a lighthearted peek into their futures.
Shannon Everley: We spent many calls looking at memes and trying to figure out Gen Z humor. I’m still trying to figure out the humor.
Actor 1 in a dark blazer and glasses: Did somebody say, “Chill?”
Actor 2 in a striped button-down top: Whaaaaat?
Everley: Back to school is a very important time for Grammarly. That’s when many students discover Grammarly for the first time, and we wanted to communicate that Grammarly could help them continue to achieve their goals. We’ve been working with Creative Works for several years now. They understand our brand, our audience, and what works on YouTube.
Johannes Helms: The brief was basically to create and develop a campaign that reaches out to the students and really speak in their language. We strongly believe that if you lean further into the language of YouTube, you can have more impact.
Actor 2 in beekeeper hood and coveralls: If you want to ace your paper, download Grammarly.
Actor 2 in button-down top and pants: Are you … me?
Actor 2 in beekeeper hood and coveralls: Yeah, you in three months.
Helms: “Future You Thanks You” was the winning concept that then was handed over to the winning agency, Ghost Note.
Victoria Vargas: When that brief, kind of like hit the table, we looked at each other and we said, “Is this something that we think we’re going to be able to do, and do well?”
Rebecca Brooker: This was one of our biggest projects to date at Ghost Note. Through consumer research that Google had done, Grammarly had realized that a lot of their audience was Gen Z, and they were looking for this campaign to feel very different from the previous campaigns they’ve done on YouTube.
Everley: One of the biggest challenges we had with this campaign was ensuring that we were dialing up the humor, appealing to our audience, and staying true to our brand. We wanted to push the envelope, but not so far that we would be inauthentic.
Helms: This is the generation that grew up on YouTube. They have a great bullshit radar for these kind of things, and so passing that is a great challenge.
Vargas: It didn’t feel like a campaign where we could just, like, show what Grammarly did. We wanted it to be funny, and we wanted it to be, you know, emotive for them.
Actor 1 in button-down white shirt: How are things with Surai?
Actor 1 in orange crew neck shirt: Eh, she married Chad.
Actor 1 in button-down white shirt: What?
Helms: The biggest challenge for this campaign was definitely getting that Gen Z humor right.
Brooker: It doesn’t make sense to people who just don’t get it. I think there’s like a really online kind of internet culture that comes with Gen Z. We did a lot of research on various social media platforms. You know, I think Gen Z is sometimes sarcastic, or they’re sometimes a little bit negative to themselves in a funny way.
Vargas: We wanted to create a world that had its humorous moments but also spoke to things that are important for Gen Z.
Actor 2 in beekeeper outfit, a black dress, and a gray suit (crosstalk): All ready now. Oooh … Hey, that’s great …
Actor 2 in a black dress: Let’s finish this essay.
Helms: YouTube changed advertising right? Like, at the end of the day you can skip out on a video at any point in time. And so those general very basic YouTube best practices are key, even in the conceptual phase.
Vargas: We had Johannes on set, which of course was super helpful in making sure that the campaign was optimized for YouTube.
Helms: The very basics are: Get the audience hooked, have something intriguing right from the get go.
Actor 1 in button-down white shirt: Did you download Grammarly?
Helms: In the story structure, have a heartbeat that mix between those product moments that explain the product, but then also mix it in again with those light-hearted entertainment moments.
Make sure that it’s properly framed, cropped in, properly lit, so that you can see it on the small screen, and then close it out with a clear and direct call to action.
Break the fourth wall. Talk with the audience directly, and then you should be good to go.
Actor 1 in an academic cap and gown: Oh, you’re still here? Well, click the blue button to use Grammarly.
Brooker: We are one of the only Black-owned agencies in the States today. We are primarily an agency of people of color, and I think that lets us bring our unique lived experiences to the work.
Vargas: A diverse and inclusive crew makes for a better end product on anything that you're working in. I mean, perspective and lived experiences is key to the success of a campaign. Everybody is going to give you insight that you’re not going to get if you just work with one specific type of people.
Brooker: We try to create content that feels relatable, that feels authentic, and really centers and highlights people whose voices are usually unheard and not seen in the mainstream media.
Everley: Many students really related to the characters and the situations. Several of them said that they wanted to be friends with one of the main characters. So far, we’ve achieved over 150 million views of the videos.
Brooker: People were really interested in seeing the full commercial, even if it wasn’t in just an ad, they were actually willing to Google it and go look at it.
Helms: It’s always a rewarding feeling that, “Oh yeah, our stuff is working.” And it’s like, “Whew, OK, all right, next. Next one, please.”
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