The Agency Millennials Are Gonna Be Alright

Kayla Green is digital strategy director at Saatchi & Saatchi LA.

For all the hand-wringing about the newest generation of agencies, the industry will be just fine.

I recently had the opportunity to be a mentor at Digiday’s Mobile Innovation Camp held last week in Bonita Springs, FL, where the industry’s mobile rising stars (read: millennials) gathered together for three days of activities that equated to something like the mobile marketing version of the Hunger Games. About 200 of our brightest and most ambitious young talent competed in physical, mental and collaborative challenges, complete with a brand hackathon where fictitious briefs were given to teams to complete, similar to that of a real pitch.

While playing mentor to a passionate and intelligent young group of adults on ‘team orange’ I noticed a few themes emerge in our talent of tomorrow. If you’re looking for the rising stars within your own organization, here are a few qualities to keep an eye out for and tips on how to tap into this group of talented individuals.

They are committed. Committed to their teams. Committed to their jobs. Committed to their careers. There are no slackers here. This trip to Bonita Springs, Florida was no boondoggle. When not participating in the Camp’s scheduled events, these rising stars were hard at work on their regular ‘day job’ responsibilities. Tip: Breakaway from the unfortunate categorizing of millennials as a generation of entitled and unambitious workers. There’s great raw talent in this generation and with some strong leadership, will be the mobile leaders of tomorrow.

They are mobile natives. No mobile marketing ninjas in this group. They’re always on their phones and don’t spout the mobile marketing jargon in a contrived effort to sound smart and relevant. They know the landscape and are a savvy group of individuals who don’t need much education on the importance of a mobile-first strategy, because they’re really living in a mobile-first world. Tip: Don’t be put off by what could be mistaken for disrespectful phone etiquette. They have their phones in their hands at all times and won’t put them down for anything. Embrace this behavior and figure out ways to tap in to their knowledge of the mobile landscape.

They are not afraid to fail and try again. In today’s agency world, we spend a lot of time talking about having agile teams that allow for iteration, although this can prove to be challenging in today’s more traditional advertising model. Tomorrow’s mobile rising stars spend less time working through a single solution model and more time iterating on a few different ideas before landing on one solution. When working on their brief, teams adopted new ways of working. One team even broke up into smaller teams to compete for the big idea. Tip: Don’t confine ideation to a single process. Help give them guidance and direction and the tools they need to reflect on the task at hand. See what ideas emerge.

They work better after a few beers. It’s not anything we don’t already know, but I saw firsthand that my team cracked our brief after several beers.

At the end of the two-day camp, I ask each of my team members what they’d learned from the experience. While I had expected everyone to rattle off some new stat about mobile, or how to build a better app, or use SMS for a mobile CRM campaign, they each spoke about the experience as a personal growth in their quest to figure out where they fit in the world of mobile marketing. If the talent that attended the Digiday mobile innovation camp is any indication of the future of our mobile business, I have high hopes that this future is going to be bright.

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