Millennials—the generation of people, 18-34, who came of age around the turn of the millennium—are set to be the largest segment of the American work force this year. In advertising, millennials now make up 44% of the industry. That means in the agency world, millennial numbers are causing a cultural shift that is critical to keep an eye on. In many ways, millennials have a lot to offer in an agency environment—if their natural talents and tendencies can be cultivated.
Here are some major ways that millennials are changing advertising agencies:
They are tech-savvy
Millennials are the first generation to spend the majority of their lives after the invention of the Internet. They have grown up with progressive technology and have a natural ability to adapt to the next new thing.
This kind of tech-savviness can be beneficial in an agency environment. Millennials have the knowledge to build apps, code programs, create websites, as well as other skills that can lead to innovative campaigns and solutions to problems. Their innate ability to pick up technology also makes them more fearless than older generations when developing ideas around a new technology or digital platform. That can be a blessing and sometimes a curse—depending if the millennials fully understand all the risks involved.
Even the basic lines of communication are being adapted to the younger generation’s tech-centered style. Millennial marketers want the ability to digitally communicate via multiple methods. A 2012 study from Time Inc. showed millennials switch media types 27 times during every non-working hour. That attention span makes antiquated forms of communication and training basically useless. Millennials are better equipped to receive information in small chunks. To cater to the younger cohort, agencies will continue to reevaluate their training and professional development tactics.
They see the big picture
Traditionally, the agency world was made up of up specialized positions—media people stayed in media, creative stayed in creative—where ad professionals remained for their entire careers. Millennials, however, have a tendency to work around department boundaries and form cross-departmental campaigns. The idea of staying in one position, focusing on one area, and even staying in one career path, doesn’t appeal to them.
Millennials—due in a large part to the technology boom—grew up multitasking. In a new employment world where the average adult will change jobs 11 times and careers three times, the idea of being pigeon-holed into one arena in an agency is unfathomable to a millennial. Agencies are beginning to adapt to what has been dubbed “liquid talent” and allowing employees to apply skill sets across departments and geographies. Giving millennials the opportunity to be involved in various aspects of the agency world is a common retention strategy to combat the trend of position hopping.
Millennials have a heightened social conscience
Rather than focusing on higher salaries and prestige, millennials often prefer an agency to have a greater purpose. The generation generally wants their work to mean something. The satisfaction from knowing they helped make a difference is important to the younger employees before accepting a job at an agency.
The drive to “do good” has resulted in some innovative campaigns that both advance clients’ goals and offer an element of philanthropy. For example, some agencies are utilizing their creative labs to build beneficial technologies, like SS+K’s recent partnership with Mark Morris Dance Group to build Moving Through Glass—a Google Glass app that aids sufferers of Parkinson’s disease with beneficial dance-based exercises throughout the day.
The younger generation relishes in the idea that they could work on similar projects as part of their agency contribution. As millennials continue to make up a bigger portion of the agency workforce, these types of projects will likely continue to emerge.