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How to Design Life-Saving Health Campaigns with Gen Z in Mind

Gen Z, the generation born between the late 1990s and early 2000s, have revolutionized the way we think about campaigns and campaign engagement. With their inclusive mindset, digital fluency and emphasis on social good, Gen Z has emerged as the most influential demographic across industries.

From business and entertainment to technology and social activism, organizations are studying Gen Z to understand how to create impactful campaigns that inspire action and address the unique needs of their community.

In healthcare, reaching Gen Z is more than just a smart marketing decision—it’s key to saving lives and addressing the opioid crisis. Studies show that not only is Gen Z more concerned about their health than previous generations, but they also experience a higher risk of developing substance use disorders. By engaging Gen Z in conversations about dangerous substances like fentanyl, public health campaigns can influence wide scale behaviors, promote preventive measures, and provide valuable resources.

So how can we reach Gen Z with the life-saving health information they need to educate themselves and others about substance use disorders? It’s all about personalization, convenience, trust, and the search for the truth—all factors that drive their behaviors and decision-making process. By recognizing the impact of Gen Z and prioritizing their well-being, we can save lives, empower future leaders, and build healthier, more resilient communities.

Below are five factors to consider when designing substance use campaigns for Gen Z audiences:

  1. Develop campaigns mobile friendly: Smartphones remain the number one device for over 75% of Gen Z. As their gateway to the world, mobile-friendly campaigns create opportunities for seamless engagement and contribute to the overall effectiveness of a campaign. For our Real Deal on Fentanyl campaign, we made sure the website was easily accessible by smartphone and promoted on several online platforms to better connect with our targeted audience.
  2. Reach out on social media: For Gen Z, YouTube is king – followed closely by apps like TikTok, Instagram and SnapChat. While Gen Z has a presence across social media, prioritizing these platforms can be a critical outreach tool to support campaign awareness and engagement. Studies show TikTok’s growing popularity among Gen Z, citing that more than two-thirds of teens 13-17 use the app on a constant basis. By improving our understanding of Gen Z’s relationship with social media, we can begin to deliver more targeted campaigns that reach them where they are.
  3. Consider youth influencers: Gen Z influencers possess the power to impact their generation’s daily decisions and outlook. Their audience identifies with the values they represent, which establishes them as a trusted messenger to followers. Along with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, we worked with several youth influencers, including college athletes, to educate young people on the dangers of fentanyl and the life-saving effects of Naloxone, a medicine that reverses opioid-related overdoses.
  4. Strive for virtual convenience: Gen Z prioritizes convenience, including virtual access to healthcare, much more than other generations. They find their online communities just as valuable and authentic as in-person communities. In our Real Deal on Fentanyl campaign, we made the website as convenient as possible with short phrases such as “get the facts” and “help your friends” linked to easy-to-understand information and connections to support.
  5. Avoid fear-based tactics and build trust: When discussing messaging for our fentanyl campaign, we chose to avoid fear-based language, which often distracts from the message. By working with former drug dealers to teach people about fentanyl, we employed a ground up strategy rather than a top-down approach of talking at Gen Z instead of with them.

Reaching Gen Z on substance use campaigns is a uniquely challenging yet rewarding opportunity. This generation has a genuine interest in health, yet values convenience and trust. By understanding the needs and wants of this audience, we can create powerful campaigns that reach Gen Z, improve health outcomes, and save lives.

Photo by CottonBro Studio / Pexels


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