Let Millennials Disrupt The Sequence Of #Agencylife

Millennial is the word on every brand’s mind. And naturally, it’s on the minds of agency leaders and recruiters.

More than one in three American workers today are Millennials (Pew Research Center, 2015). That’s the single largest segment of our workforce. And when you slice that data inside the historically youthful advertising industry, agency halls start to look and feel like college (if only to curmudgeon Gen Xers like me).

#Agencylife is changing. It’s getting younger, [tech]savvier and now more than ever, more nimble. Agency leaders want to harness these talents to drive growth, but often struggle to reap the benefits due to linear processes, cultural vestiges like departmental politics and a dearth of contemporary skill sets such as the ability to collect, structure and draw insights from data.

The Business Today Is No Longer Linear
The work of connecting consumers with brands is still the same. But everything that used to happen in a sequence now happens all at once. The work now is in perpetual BETA. And Millennials can lead us in this regard (if we let them).



Millennials are natural cross-channel thinkers because, well, why wouldn’t they be? They live in a world where TV is just a screen, and not even their primary screen. They are voracious consumers of media. Collaboration is in their DNA. Departmental divisions don’t seem to matter. They value data and apply it in their approach. The programs they conceive are social by design. And, they have a natural inclination to think in real time, then iterate.

The problem — and this is the agency world’s problem — is that they’re often forced into siloed, one-channel thinking because that’s how we are organized, how we think. For Millennials, the notion of creating an annual plan because the budget is fixed is a foreign concept.

Understand Their Motivations
Most employers and recruiters think they know how to thin-slice this generation, because the same themes emerge in most articles on the topic:

  • They don’t value traditional workplace rules;
  • They expect to have their voices heard and want recognition;
  • They want to do good for the world;
  • They are a generation of hackers, looking for shortcuts.

Not exactly in perfect alignment with agency workplace culture (save perhaps that last bullet).

Forward-thinking agencies recognize that leadership’s task is to go beyond these platitudes (and the requisite foosball tables and happy hours) to provide a purpose. They evolve their ways of working. They give them a voice. They embrace their natural cross-channel mindset, and in so doing, are able to reinvent their operational models to create more nimble solutions for clients. And perhaps most important, they recognize that even though they’re all Millennials, they’re also all individuals and should be treated as such.

Deal With Weaknesses, Head On
There’s no substitute for real business experience. So it’s our job as agency leaders to help Millennials overcome their challenges. To help them understand how to empathize with clients and manage their feedback and input. To teach them to take the long view — that tactics and platforms come after a strategy and big idea. That research is infinitely more valuable than “me-search.”

What’s Old Is New
Fortune’s “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials”suggests that employers need to engage this generation, recognize their talents, and give them a significant role where they can make a difference. This is not a new management concept. But agencies have — or will soon reach — an inflection point. And the more Millennials we hire, the more their generation’s attitudes and behaviors will shape our ways of working and the value we deliver for clients. #FTW!

2 comments about "Let Millennials Disrupt The Sequence Of #Agencylife ".
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  1. nadine baarstad from Wax Communications, November 16, 2015 at 9:31 a.m.

    You certainly hit the nail on the head!  They move very quickly and want to move immediately to action after their research, but don't appreciate the need to strategize before moving to action, and THAT is what we need to teach.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 16, 2015 at 11:24 a.m.

    You think this problem is only an agency problem ? Perhaps a mandatoy year or so of national service would answer this call.

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