Recent research shows that today’s youth no longer hold the traditionally irresponsible attitudes of their predecessors

It’s official. The chill winds of recession that have blown through the UK economy have alarmed not only the adult population; an icy air of financial caution has had an effect on 15 to 24-years-olds too. The image of young people as vacuums of financial acumen has been swept away by the latest wave of ROAR research, released this week.

The second wave of data from ROAR – the panel study launched earlier this year by seven media organisations – Channel 4; Cinema Media; EMAP; Guardian Newspapers; Kiss 100 FM; Mills & Allen; and BMP – reveals that only 15 per cent were not worried about being in debt.

The traditional image of financial irresponsibility is further dispelled by almost two-thirds admitting they know the current state of their finances at any time. The long-term effects of the recession means that they are being forced to make more informed and financially pragmatic decisions at an increasingly early age.

Alison Hall, head of planning and research at The Guardian and Observer, says: “Among 15 to 17-year-olds – traditionally the most financially carefree – a growing proportion now recognise the need to contribute towards their further education. A third of this group is planning to go to university or college, and is actively saving for it.”

Franco Zazzera, research manager at NatWest, agrees: “Results from the ROAR project support our own research. Young people are increasingly aware at an earlier age of their future needs and are planning how to satisfy them.”

This level of increased awareness is not restricted to their financial affairs. The impact of Aids has redefined sexual attitudes amongst young people with 74 per cent now more cautious about new partners and 86 per cent believing in monogamy within a relationship.

However, ROAR’s findings do not indicate a generation returning to Victorian values.

The attitude of today’s 15 to 24- year-olds is that of informed liberalism with a more widespread acceptance of gay and lesbian relation- ships. Further evidence of this attitude is reflected in their strong support for pre-marital cohabitation – only ten per cent disagreed with people living together before marriage.

What does this mean to advertisers? Those targeting young people must take into account their forced maturity at an earlier age as well as communication with a generation which is highly brand and media literate.

The positioning of brands is key to 15 to 24-year-olds today. From purchasing cars and hi-fis, to buying beers and perfumes, all score above 80 per cent when those surveyed were asked about the importance of their brand choice.

ROAR breaks these figures down further to indicate the age at which different product categories have the most brand sensitivity.

Sean Kelleher, business development manager at Channel 4, says: “ROAR has already shown that the relationship young people have with advertising has changed. Within this new relationship, the role of the brand is crucial. Today’s 15 to 24- year-olds have been bombarded with commercial messages at an ever increasing rate from an early age. They are better informed and more advertising literate than any of their predecessors and demand that commercial communications must both entertain and inform.”

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