Brands should play more ‘supportive’ role when advertising to HK’s unhappy youth, says agency

Occupy Central: partly motivated by money worries

Occupy Central: partly motivated by concern over inequality

Based on the findings of a survey taken in the months before the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong, an ad agency has proposed that advertisers should change the way they communicate to the young Hongkongers who are struggling with money worries and concerns about their future.

Advertising that uses wealth creation to connect to aspirational young Hongkongers could be having a negative effect on this group, and BBDO suggests brands should change tack and play a “supportive” role.

Young Hongkongers aged 25-35 are the least happy, the study of 500 18-35 year olds found; they are the most unsatisfied with their lives, lack a sense of control and have a low sense of being connected with their community.

This group are mostly single, male and worried about money. BBDO has dubbed them “The Middlescents.”

Balancing work and family life and expanding their social circle are lower priorities for these people than building their careers, doing a good job at work or managing their finances – their number one concern – the study of people with monthly incomes of above HK$20,000 (US$2,600) found.

Expats were excluded from the survey, which was conducted in June and September, the month that the Occupy Central protests began. The pro-democracy protests were partly a reaction to high economic inequality in Hong Kong.

“The Middlescents are caught,” said Carol Potter, president and CEO of BBDO Greater China. “They can see the benefits of marriage and are striving to achieve them but can’t. This is, we believe, why managing their money has a higher priority in their lives than balancing work and family life.”

Too often brands simply “join the chorus” by urging Middlescents to increase their wealth and advance their career, Potter said.

“This isn’t helping. We think brands have the opportunity to capture the Middlescents’ market by taking the opposing perspective and helping ease the tension. These brands will differentiate themselves from those that maintain the status quo.”

In contrast to Middlescents, those of that age who are married are 58 per cent more likely to report high levels of life satisfaction (very satisfied or satisfied) than those who are single.

Married people in this age group feel more secure, are more patriotic and want to contribute more to society, the study finds.

They are more likely to feel in control of their lives (76 per cent more likely), finances (30 per cent more likely), health (50 per cent more likely), careers (90 per cent more likely) and their future (107 per cent more likely).

And they are more likely to be proud of Hong Kong than singles: Hong Kong’s history (37 per cent more likely), Hong Kong’s resilience (60 per cent more likely) and Hong Kong’s sophistication (72 per cent more likely).

Potter said the agency ran the survey because they wanted a better understanding of the priorities of young, local Hongkongers.

“Priorities help define our values and how we live our lives – our choices, our actions, our hopes, and our fears. They help us examine the past and chart a course for the future,” she said.


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