Roman Tsunder, founder and president of Access360 Media, wants to change the world. So he has begun to build a conference series -- the PTTOW Youth Media Summit -- where online media insiders and thought leaders can gather and make a positive social impact.
Think TED or World Economic Forum for today's youth, ages 14 to 34. There are 88 million young people who spend $1.2 trillion annually in the United States, Tsunder says. In the U.S., this demographic represents the largest social and economic power, yet there isn't one place for advertising and social media executives who serve them to gather and network. "This age group has the most social and cultural impact," Tsunder says. "Our country depends on it."
James Eberhard sat across from me at the Summit. If the name doesn't sound familiar, his efforts should. Eberhard, founder and chairman of Mobile Accord, spearheaded efforts behind the mGive Foundation that coordinated mobile text funding for Haiti earthquake relief Red Cross donations.
Guys like Eberhard can help Tsunder accomplish his mission to help young people achieve their goals, which most in the room appeared to share. Invitees who attended the two-day event this week make decisions for their respective companies. These are the experts you want to get face time with, but rarely can.
Invitations to the Summit went out to one decision-maker at a company from each industry category. WPP's Lance Maerov, who heads corporate development in North America, represented ad agencies, for example. Exceptions to that one-company rule existed, too. YouTube's Hunter Walk and Facebook's Mike Murphy both represented social media. Roxy's Kenna Florie and Quicksilver's Mike Matey represented the clothing and lifestyle category. Well, you get the picture.
Tsunder, who emigrated from Russia to the United States at age five, declined to talk about the price to attend the invitation-only conference. Sponsors support part of the price. He did point to several deals companies had pulled off since the first conference last year. The U.S. State Department partnered with YouTube to build a digital presence for the Iraq National Museum and to help establish the Iraq Technology Task Force. Facebook, Pepsi, and Edelman joined with the Alliance of Youth Movement to support social change movements worldwide.
"Mobile, social media, online video, and gaming industries represent more than $500 billion in spending annually," he says. "These mediums support young people, but there's not one event that brings people together that helps them."
Well, that's all fine and dandy, I tell Tsunder, but the 40-plus top executives who attended the event support online advertising, search engine marketing and media. How will they help you make a social and economic impact on today's youth?
First, companies need to drive profits by doing deals, Tsunder tells me. Second, they can learn best practices from each other to address social change. "It's like that Beatles song," he says. "It's not like we're going to change the world tomorrow. It will take time."
Then he turned the topic of conversation toward Adora Svitak, a short story writer and blogger since age seven, an an advocate for literary. Svitak, now 12, spoke at the PTTOW Youth Media Summit. She also presented at TED earlier this year.
Tsunder is just trying to call attention to the fact that out of the $300 billion spent annually on advertising in the U.S., only $1.5 billion is spent on social causes. During the conference, a panel discussed how companies can make a social impact and increase their bottom line. All but one panel featuring Coca-Cola, Facebook, Microsoft and YouTube remained closed to media.