by Carl Cardinelli (@CarlCardinelli) Ahh, millennials. The subjects of both ridicule and, equally so, misguided envy.

First things first, who are #millennials? A common misconception is that they are those born after 2000. They are, in fact, those of us born between 1977 and 2000. Hold the smartphone. They’re born between 1975 and 1995. Cool your jets, mate, it’s 1982 and 2004. Wait…is generational segmentation subjective? Yes, it appears that it is not only subjective, but also openly debated. Good grief.

Cue Jan Brady’s voice: “Millennials Millennials Millennials”

The 21st century gave birth to the hyper-ego. How? We live in a world where youngsters are rewarded for participation. You didn’t come last; you came fifth. Out of five. Well done, champ. Here’s a ribbon. And a trophy.

The rules of the game have changed.

In short, while our parents, in their infinite wisdom, tell us that we can be anything, the world is telling us that we can have everything. Add to this that we, as marketers, are intensely ambitious, and you have a potential recipe for anti-loyalty and a failure to commit.

Cool story but what does this have to do with agencies?

In short, everything. Here’s the scoop. The majority of young, talented and/or promising millennial advertisers do not work for your agency. No, sir. They are merely renting desk space in exchange for work. They’re using you, your clients, brands, hardware, software and creative direction to build their portfolios. More than this, they feel entitled to the best projects. The hard truth is most of them have no intention of giving you the best years of their working lives. They’re probably looking for their next 9–5 job.

The key word here is ”job”. The word “career” implies too heavy a commitment, and millennials are still debating whether to leave it all to write blogs on how they gave it all up to become a barman in Bali. #blessed.

This is a very common perception among millennial advertisers. Get a ‘job’ with an agency, and stay for two years. Three years max. Then move on — for more money. In our industry, it’s getting increasingly harder to find long-term team players. Career-driven, job-loyal enthusiasts. Those special few who, up until about a decade ago, used to be the norm. Where we used to hail entrepreneurs as the select who see the world for what it could be, nowadays empires are built upon selfies and half-baked-autotune pop ’n roll. That’s the new dream.

Richard Branson is now the people’s champion, not the entrepreneurial epitome. The evolution of Silicon Valley into a curriculum in startup culture has meant that anyone and everyone now dreams of doing it in a small group or, “better yet”, alone. Ask any young advertiser where they’d like to be in 10 years. While the answer used to be something along the lines of “creative director” or “head strategist” at their favourite agency, you’d be lucky to hear them answer with anything other than “doing my own thing”. Now pair this information with the forecast that, by the year 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workspace, and you’ll note that we’re in for an interesting ride.

So, millennials are self-entitled brats who expect more than they are willing to earn?

The thing is, you only need to slap ‘Mill’ into old Uncle Googs before you are bombarded with articles written by self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on why millennials are ‘the worst’. Here’s the switch. The problem isn’t the millennial mindset. It’s yours. To all those freely lashing out lambastery on how millennials require ‘regular naps’, demand ‘large clients to work on’ and ‘are the worst’ — you’re the problem. Consider that, according to research, millennials may be as old as 35. You may be naively trolling someone older, and wiser, than yourself. In short — you’ve become that person. That grumpy old windbag waving your proverbial hagged fist at the ‘youth of today’.

The thing is, we’re not willing, or prepared to “get off ‘your’ lawn”. You effed up your lawn a long time ago, and when you’re gone, we’d like to have some green to smush our toes into, if you’d please. So don’t be surprised when your print ad brief aimed at selling engagement rings is answered with a CSR initiative to solve the child-soldier crisis in Africa linked to the diamond trade.

An idea has never been as powerful as it is today. Think about it. Modern technology and innovation have made billionaires of 19-year-olds. We no longer require a master’s degree in engineering to build a product or to solve a problem. Uber, Facebook, Netflix — these are all ideas. Big ones. The software and framework came (very shortly) after. The world is serving up instant gratification on a repurposed platter (silver is sooo baby boomer). All you need is to figure out how to better solve real-world issues. The good news is that millennials are smart. Where previous generations gained their knowledge from study, people and libraries, nowadays it’s at our fingertips. Any answer to any question with just one swipe.

This is a much bigger deal than you think; it’s pretty much the map for advertising’s ‘future’

Granted — expecting/demanding better clients, shorter hours and ‘fun’ working environments before earning them is not on. It goes back to the fifth-place-trophy-back-patting we’ve come to expect. But wanting and striving for job satisfaction and a healthy work/life balance is completely justified, as is wanting to solve core issues, rather than slap on the metaphorical band-aid.

Millennials aren’t striving for Cannes Art Direction Craft Awards. They’re looking to be placed for innovation, goodvertising and making a tangible contribution to the world.

This notion is equally as important when considering millennial consumers. It is estimated that millennials are 50% more likely to favour a brand that supports a cause. A brand that (bravely) stands for more than its bottom line. In fact, a large percentage of them would be willing to pay more.

The title of this piece is flawed; it should read “The problems for millennials”

In summary, millennials have a mammoth task ahead. We need, and have, big issues to solve. We no longer have the luxury of pawning our shortfalls onto the next generation. Time’s up. Millennials are a generation of problem-solvers, not business moguls. We seek ideas and solutions for people and planet.

I believe that ‘millennial’ is more of a term than a generation category, and therefore should be grouped by mindset, not age. Those who are not only willing, but enthused, by picking up the pieces of the over-promising boomers. Sure, we’re more focused on reaching a little higher. Indeed, we do demand more than a pay cheque and retirement package out of a ‘job’. Is that such a bad thing?

We are seeing a fundamental shift in mindset, a direct result of greed, dishonesty and broken promises. We find reward in our effect on our environments. And we want to be recognised for our ability and actions to solve the world’s biggest issues.

Challenge accepted.


Carl CardinelliCarl Cardinelli (@CarlCardinelli) began his career in branding and communications in 2003, spending the better part of six years establishing himself in London. Upon his return to South Africa in 2012, he was selected to lead Utopia, the “screw-the-line” agency based in Cape Town. When not heading up a team of unruly young admen, he can be found brewing his own beer, picking out a new pair of sneakers or travelling the globe in search of live music. Carl contributes the monthly “The Adtagonist” column, in which he challenges perceptions of the advertising industry and its practices for the next generation of marketers, to

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