Generation Progress is a national advocacy and education organization that promotes progressive solutions to the political and social issues that matter to young people. They strive to uplift the voices and leadership of young people across the country to ensure that their perspectives and needs are represented in policy-making spaces at all levels of government. Generation Progress is unique as it is housed within the Center for American Progress, making it the only youth advocacy organization within a progressive think tank.
In late 2020, Generation Progress was awarded a grant to be used to support a campaign focused on educating young adults about the intersection of abortion access, criminal justice and economic justice–and making the connection with audiences as to why canceling student loan debt is a racial and reproductive justice issue. Generation Progress also sought to grow their digital footprint and grassroots supporters by inviting audiences to take action by signing a petition to Congress demanding equal access to abortion.
Elyse Wallnutt, Director of Digital Strategy at Center for American Progress
Despite the fact that the campaign’s target audience of Gen Z and young Millennials having an always-on approach to digital media, advertising to this audience still posed some challenges. Like many of us, this demographic is especially prone to banner blindness, and has extremely short attention spans online. They also rely heavily on subscription service platforms like Netflix and Spotify, which don’t support ads.
As the youth engagement arm of the Center for American Progress, Generation Progress also had limited brand awareness and visibility when launching this campaign. Since this younger audience of digital natives is highly attuned to brand authenticity, we needed to establish trust from the outset. To address this, we explored paid partnerships as part of our media planning process in order to tie Generation Progress’s brand to reputable organizations with an established presence speaking to these issues.
An even bigger challenge laid within the campaign messaging. With a highly complicated message that tied together a number of complex issues facing young women today, we needed to first streamline the messaging, and then deliver it in an ad format that allowed for rich communication. We chose to combine emotive storytelling with hard-hitting statistics in order to create a well-rounded narrative.
Understanding the challenges we faced in advertising to an audience of 18-29 year olds, we focused efforts on unique media opportunities that would allow us to drive both awareness and engagement.
We sought out premium partnerships in highly targeted environments that allowed us to amplify the Generation Progress message. Keeping the complexity of the messaging in mind we focused on impactful ad formats that would drive users to the landing page to further engage.
Ultimately, being authentic – in our message and our ad placement – was key. We created a plan that spoke WITH our audience – not AT them.
We tested platforms outside of owned channels, where we knew our target audience was consuming media. This included utilizing Teen Vogue’s Facebook and Instagram handles, as well as partnering with Snapchat directly, where Generation Progress had no prior presence.
Ads placed with Teen Vogue had the lowest cost per impressions and clicks, along with the highest click-through rates, indicating that Teen Vogue was an appropriate partner to deliver campaign messaging. This validated our hypothesis that messages coming from the Teen Vogue handles would resonate with a prospecting audience in a more substantial way than the same message coming from Generation Progress directly.
Snapchat also proved an effective platform to reach a Gen Z and young Millennial audience, and was a particularly efficient driver of impressions. Our creative test on Snapchat gave Generation Progress data, learnings and insights to consider for future campaigns.
Carousel units and video formats were tested across platforms as they allowed for deeper story-telling and audience engagement. These creative formats were also identified as types of content that young users are more familiar with and likely to engage with on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.
We proposed two different creative concepts to Generation Progress for selection – one leveraging in-platform video formats similar to TikTok and Instagram Reels, and the other focused on carousels that leveraged the Venn Diagram concept of intersecting issues, a popular and recognizable meme at the time of our campaign.
In addition to testing new platforms and partnerships like Teen Vogue and Snapchat, we also wanted to reach audiences to support the secondary campaign goal of driving petition signatures. We leveraged Generation Progress’s owned channels of Facebook and Instagram to test creative formats and audiences modeled off of Generation Progress’s audience – ads which were ultimately responsible for the lions’ share of petition signatures as part of this campaign.