Millennials and Gen-Z Are Watching Less TV Than Before. How Can Luxury Brands Make The Most of It?


Louise-Anne Fort | May 30, 2022

Merchandise from Netflix's hit TV show Squid Game.Credit: Courtesy.

Interest in TV and film from younger audiences like millennials and Gen-Z is waning but the big and small screen still represents an opportunity for luxury brands to tap into, says Louise-Anne Fort, DLG Performance Marketing Executive.

Iconic moments in TV and film are often connected with iconic moments in fashion. Think of Holly Golightly standing outside of Tiffany’s in her chic black Givenchy dress. Carrie Bradshaw neatly tucking her Fendi Baguette bag under her arm, and James Bond casting a cursory glance down at his Omega Seamaster watch.

Each of these products is as much a part of the character as the person themselves and the opportunity to use these moments to further connect with a new generation is priceless. But with around 60 percent of younger consumers watching less and less TV and film than older generations, instead of spending more time watching user-generated video content, according to Deloitte’s 2022 Digital Media Trends survey, brands are going to have to work a lot harder.

So how can brands go deeper and embed themselves into the awareness of younger consumers at a time when their attention is split between playing video games, listening to music, browsing the internet, and engaging on social media?

It’s all about finding the right balance, said Sabina Tchelnokova, Propaganda Gem Managing Director for Russia, CIS, and Eastern Europe who works with brands like Bulgari, Tous, Wella Professional, and Fendi to place their products on the big and small screen as well as for celebrity endorsement and the red carpet.

“The objective is to find a smart solution,” she explained. “It’s about how you (as a brand) can be perceived and noticed in a positive way by people who you want to connect with, without being intrusive or annoying to your target audience or people who are not interested.”

Small Screens, Big Opportunities

With that in mind, the first thing to note is not all iconic moments happen in a “big” way. Think of how many moments you may have watched a film or a television series where they were just having a coffee, driving a car, or having lunch with their friends. Each time an audience watches these scenes, it represents different levels of opportunity for brands to connect with future consumers.

In the South Korean survival drama television series Squid Game, all the actors were seen wearing white slip-on Vans shoes, which the skateboarding shoe brand originally released in 1977. In the following six months after the show’s debut on Netflix on September 17, 2021, there were 232,660 search queries recorded for ‘squid game shoes’, ‘squid game vans’, ‘white vans squid game’, and ‘vans squid game’. According to Lyst, the Korean series gave Vans a 145 percent increase in global searches for those exact white slip-on sneakers.

Likewise, with Emily in Paris - another hit TV series on Netflix - the placement of a Piaggio Vespa x Christian Dior Scooter in one of its episodes, recorded more than 5,000 search queries for ‘emily in paris vespa’ and ‘vespa dior emily in paris’ in December and January.

But there are opportunities on the small screen are that are too good to pass up as seen with Fendi and its Baguette bag. As mentioned earlier, Carrie Bradshaw and her Fendi Baguette bag represented an iconic moment in the Sex and The City TV series. So when the new chapter of ‘And Just Like That’ hit the small screens in early December last year, just after the Italian fashion house relaunched its original bag, search interest for the iconic accessory - ‘fendi baguette’ on Google - increased by 49 percent in December 2021, demonstrating how great partnerships can stand the test of time if done correctly. Fendi was able to seize this opportunity and collaborated with Sarah Jessica Parker to launch a limited edition of the well-known sequined Baguette, made available on in February.

“It's important to mark the status of the characters,” highlighted Tchelnokova, who has spent over 20 years working in luxury brand communications, including PR, cinema, and entertainment marketing. “A car or a beautiful bag or whatever will highlight it, you just need to have a look at how she's dressed, what she wears ... especially now the world is very savvy about recognising brands”, she added.

Choose The Right Platform For The Right Audiences

Whilst younger consumers are watching less TV and films, where they watch matters. For luxury brands, this means ensuring you are choosing the right platforms to communicate with your audiences.

Pat McGrath Labs’ exclusive ‘Pat McGrath Labs x Bridgerton’ custom makeup line.Credit: Courtesy Pat McGrath Labs.

Unsurprisingly, the number of Netflix subscribers went up during the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and Netflix themselves created an opportunity to sell to its viewers by creating a Netflix shop where visitors can buy related merchandise of their favourite TV shows and films. In June 2021, there were 60,500 queries for ‘netflix shop’ when the platform launched. The second highest peak of interest for this query on Google was recorded in October 2021, thanks to the launch of limited edition Casa de Papel sneakers created in collaboration with Reebook, with 22,200 searches. It comes as no surprise that for brands, creating merchandising generates a lot of interest.

Take Netflix's hit TV show Bridgerton. Search demand for ‘Bridgerton merchandise’ on Google recorded 14,800 queries after the second season premiered, offering branded Bridgerton eyeshadow palettes in collaboration with famed make-up artist Pat McGrath, while ‘Netflix shop’ appeared first in the google results (SEO only).

Despite the loss of 200,000 subscribers in Q1 2022, Netflix still has 221.6 million subscribers, making it one of the most important platforms for brand partnerships today.

YouTube is another important touchpoint that can be leveraged by brands, as seen more recently with Balenciaga's partnership with the Simpsons. The fashion house created an exclusive 10-minute episode, which was revealed just after its Spring/Summer 2022 collection. The special episode has recorded more than 10 million views over the last seven months. The Italian brand also launched a capsule including for example hoodies and t-shirts. Search queries around the Simpsons x Balenciaga collaboration were 226,910 in October 2021 (on Google), and still recorded 142,630 searches 6 months after its debut.

Beyond just using the right platform, there are also different ways that brands can partner with TV and film. Balmain, which continues to push forward with its bold digital activations, teamed up with British broadcaster Channel 4 to create the industry’s first-ever branded entertainment drama series: Fracture.

In five different 8-minute episodes, viewers discover a seemingly deserted and hopeless motel, the backdrop to the adventures and surprise meetings that take place in the series, where all the characters are dressed in Balmain’s new collection.

What the brand did was to go beyond mere product placement and storytelling, and instead, actively engage in co-creation, placing styling at the heart of the production. As the selection of actors reflects, this was a very targeted activation towards a Gen Z/millennial audience. Indeed, you’ll find some familiar faces, starting with Charles Melton, the American actor revealed by the series Riverdale and the actress of 13 Reasons Why Tommy Dorfman. The singer Jesse Jo Stark is the main character and, also part of the cast, Ajani Russell, who appeared in the HBO series Betty.

Build Your Relationships

As with every industry, building relationships with other industries to form strong partnerships is key. Take the Cannes Film Festival, which just ended on Sunday. The festival is one of the biggest events in the cinema industry but is also a key event for luxury brands where one moment alone can generate numerous synergies and media value with just a single photo shared in the press or on social media.

Cannes Film Festival is an opportunity to build your relationships, said Tchelnokova. “It’s like making embroidery with very, very little tiny things and finding the smartest way to do it so everybody enjoys it and the partnerships could become a real friendship.”

Relationships with brand ambassadors, friends, and family members or celebrities that a brand was able to dress for the red carpet is an opportunity to nurture relationships or to develop new ones. The key is to find people who can connect with your audience and embrace your brand. It’s all about finding the good orchestration to leverage brand integration.

Chopard brand ambassador Julia Roberts on the Cannes Red Carpet.Credit: Courtesy.

Take the partnership between Julia Roberts and Chopard. The actress, who is an official ambassador of Chopard and the face of its Happy Diamonds Collection, was seen wearing a unique creation from the brand’s 2022 Red Carpet Collection at the premiere of Armageddon Time. By unveiling a collection specifically for the red carpet, Chopard seized more opportunities such as creating special content on their social media with looks of special guests on the Red Carpet, while amplifying Julia Robert’s content in paid media, or by posting video formats of behind the scenes of stars’ favourite Cannes moments. Chopard continues to develop its relationship with cinema in addition to being the maker of the Palme d’Or and Official Partner of the Cannes Film Festival.

“There are many new ways of communicating today, much more than before... The whole mechanism needs to be smartly built every time. It's still of huge value because if you're associated with something very artistic … things which have a deep emotional impact on people, especially when these people are your target audience,” said Tchelnokova.

It’s important to note that using brand integration in a movie or a TV show is not new, since actors need to be dressed and wear distinctive signs for the audience to get their characters. But the opportunity to leverage this partnership to develop a relationship and go beyond has deepened. Take one of the latest Marvel movies, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Strange is seen wearing a Master Ultra Thin Perpetual from Jaeger-LeCoultre.

In addition to being a friend of the Maison, Cumberbatch is also the face of the brand’s last short film ‘In Perpetual Motion’ to mark the launch of the new Polaris Perpetual Calendar watch. The Swiss brand also uses social media to leverage this brand integration and connect with its audiences, recording an engagement 3-4x above the average of the last posts of the manufacturer.

In a nutshell, the ultimate objective is to find the most harmonised orchestration to be able to deliver the highest perception to its audience and develop an emotional dimension without being intrusive.

Brands, if they want, can think bigger and leverage relationships with friends and ambassadors through campaigns and thus, acquire some press appearance and synergies. They need to think beyond TV and reach the small screen, physical events, and nurture relationships.

Luxury | Partnerships | TV and Film