NEW YORK: As marketers grapple with how best to engage different generations on their mobile devices, new research has found that a surprisingly high proportion of Generation Z and millennials are open to mobile ads under certain circumstances.

According to research firm Nielsen, 42% of Gen Z and 44% of millennial smartphone owners are willing to receive advertising if the content they're engaging with is free and the ads don't affect their mobile data consumption.

Nielsen defined Gen Z as consumers born from 1996 onwards and millennials as those born between 1977 and 1995. It found that convenience is important for both because they are more likely to click on an ad that does not take them out of an application or redirect them to another website.

These younger smartphone users are also more willing than older consumers to exchange some of their personal information in return for free or reduced-cost content, Nielsen found for its Q2 2016 Connected Device Report.

It said that more than half (55%) of Generation Z and 48% of millennials are willing to take action about an ad if they're given the right mix of branding, convenience and promotional offering.

By contrast, Generation X (born 1965-1976), Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and the Greatest Generation (those born before 1946) express more scepticism about releasing their personal information whether they are offered a good deal or not.

And in a further finding about how the different generations engage with mobile ads, Nielsen's survey of more than 8,400 online consumers revealed that coupons or promotions are the top motivator for millennials (19%), Generation X (17%) and Baby Boomers (14%).

Interestingly, the youngest and oldest generations – Gen Z and the Greatest Generation – united in being most motivated by ads targeted to what they were searching for. In other words, intent and relevance is key to reaching them.

"Mobile ads could be a good way to reach consumers – especially if they come with offers and promotions," the report advised marketers.

"As for engaging with people across the generational divide – make it personal, make it relevant and throw in a discount for good measure," Nielsen concluded.

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff