Monday, September 28, 2015
Mobile is the No. 1 Medium for Advertising to Gen Z & Young Millennial College Students, According to New Research from IAB & Qriously

College Students Are More Likely Than the Average Smartphone User to Say Mobile Is Where They See Relevant Ads & Cite Smartphones as Their Favorite Device Over Others, Including TV

Nearly Three-Quarters Make Purchases Via Smartphones

NEW YORK, NY (September 28, 2015) The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and its Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence today released “Generation Z & Young Millennials: Mobile First on Campus,” a study conducted with Qriously that shows that smartphone screens should be the primary medium for reaching today’s college students – the first of Generation Z and last of the Millennial generation to enter young adulthood on campus. These students are more likely than the average smartphone user to cite their mobile phone as the place where they see relevant ads (28% vs. 22%). Tailoring plays a role, with respondents stating they are more apt to notice mobile ads adapted to them based on social media and web browsing.

Male college students were particularly prone to cite mobile as the medium with the most relevant ads they saw (32.5%), with only 19 percent feeling that way about TV. Females were more balanced, with equal number saying mobile and TV were the source of relevant ads. Furthermore, both college men and women unequivocally say that their smartphone is their favorite device, preferring it over any other, including television.

More than half (55%) of those polled indicated that they have acted based on seeing a relevant ad on their mobile phone, a higher rate than among typical smartphone owners (49%). Their reactions to ads may be harder for marketers to quantify, though: they are significantly more likely to search for information based on seeing ads (13% vs. 9.5%) and to take screenshots of ads (13% vs. 7%) on their mobile device in comparison to all other smartphone users, but are somewhat less prone to tap on mobile ads (12% vs. 16%).

In addition, college students interact with mobile ads more frequently than the typical smartphone user, an average of 3.9 interactions per week versus 3.1. Females surveyed were even more liable to interact with mobile ads than males, at rates of 4.5 interactions per week versus 3.2.

“Today’s college students are leading mobile first lives – and will surely take their mobile-first mindset with them into the world after graduation,” said Anna Bager, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Mobile and Video, IAB. “Gen Z and the young Millennials on campus now are tomorrow’s next set of primary consumers and it is apparent that marketers and agencies need to reach this coveted audience on mobile screens.”

Mobile shopping is a mainstay with those surveyed; almost three out of four (73%) say they make purchases via their smartphone – much more than the average smartphone user (66%). Nearly a quarter (23%) of college students say they “often” make purchases using their smartphones, as compared to 18 percent of average smartphone users.

College is a time when young people try different brands, including those for basic household needs. Often this period sees consumers forge brand relationships that can shape purchasing behaviors for years, and the IAB/Qriously research examined influences on college students accordingly. The study shows that they are more liable to choose a brand based on social media presence/chatter (16% vs. 10%) and friends’ opinions (13% vs. 9%) compared to the typical smartphone user. Social media is particularly important as a brand selection criterion for female college students (19% vs 12%).

“Mobile is at the center of every college student’s life,” said Alexandre Sagakian, Vice President, Research and Data, Qriously. “These young people don’t even remember the days before mobile phones were in everyone’s hands. So, it comes as no surprise that they use their smartphones for shopping and that their mobile devices inevitably wield an influence over what brands they choose.”

“Generation Z & Young Millennials: Mobile First on Campus” was released at that IAB MIXX Conference in New York City. To download the full report, please visit


The “Generation Z & Young Millennials: Mobile First on Campus” survey was conducted from August 19 – September 11, 2015 in the U.S. using the Qriously mobile survey platform. Two samples were interviewed: 1,018 smartphone users who identified themselves college students aged 17-25 years old with a focus on 17-19 year olds (incoming freshmen and sophomores in Generation Z); and 1,096 smartphone users who were representative of the general smartphone-user population in the U.S.

About Qriously

Qriously is a data and advertising platform. It accesses the mindset of billions of people all over the world by asking questions on mobile devices. Answers to those questions are used to engage relevant audiences and unearth valuable insights.

About the IAB

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. It is comprised of more than 650 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital advertising or marketing campaigns. Together, they account for 86 percent of online advertising in the United States. Working with its member companies, the IAB develops technical standards and best practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. The organization is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the IAB advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City and has a West Coast office in San Francisco.

IAB Media Contact
Laura Goldberg

[email protected]