Managing Millennials: how digital agencies and creative agencies can learn from their different approaches

Let’s talk about the youth of today and how they’re going to take over the world.

When I was 26 and working in a digital agency, I was coming up to a nearly-senior type of age.

On the flip side, in a communications and creative agency, I was still chewing a dummy and learning how to write ‘e’ correctly.

And when I talked to teenagers about learning to blog, or guest lecture at a university and fashion students raise their hand to let me know they’re one step ahead of me, I start to think of who’ll be coming next.

Despite being young and starting out on my own creative journey, I already knew there’s another wave of vibrant and irritatingly fresh-faced workers right behind me.

When you’re a manager, you’re dealing with these pesky Millennials every single day. I’ve seen there’s two types of manager: those who get worried about ‘the yoof’ and those who get excited by them.

Maybe we’re worried. More creatives means more competition. Youth is sexy and fun; maturity is dull and sensible. Young people talk differently, dress differently and don’t worry about mortgages, children and all the other trappings of adulthood that are seemingly so essential. They know about pop music and holograms and what’s cutting-edge – and if you’re not cutting-edge in creative then you’re screwed.

Maybe we’re a little bit elated. Young brains mean new ideas that need shaping by experience. Young people make us feel young, and who doesn’t want to feel a little bit sexy and sassy? We can gain as much from youth as we can give to them, so they’re a valuable asset.

New generations do mean new views (outside my own bubble) which is way cool. @larrysbrain

We can all feel scared and elated simultaneously, but there is a definite divide between those who are more scared or more elated about the next generation coming into industry.

Creative agencies have been around for centuries. Being bred in a creative agency is being bred into a world that has reigned supreme across all media for a long, long time (and will undoubtedly continue to do so). It’s a world that holds power and wisdom, where ‘the new’ is filtered through a range of respected people, trusted experiences and market testing.

Cheap technology allows anyone to be in the digital business – the amount of competition is vast. @darrenspink

On the other hand, being bred into a digital agency is being bred into a world that you know is changing every time you go to sleep at night. Individuals bred on digital can’t be scared of youth. It’s like being scared of the foundations of your house.

This is an industry composed of individuals who know their work will be taken over by something bigger, faster and ‘younger’ than they could ever be. Digital is the young upstart that acknowledges its own powerlessness, and that it’s ok.

There is a division between the Old School and New School: the traditional creative agency and the digital-that-does-creative agency.

Not all of the people in all of these industries fear or love youth – human beings are capable of feeling conflicting emotions without breaking down, and we are all different in our desires and phobias.

But it feels like the former School of creative ad agencies wants to embrace youth but is too frightened of relinquishing its seniority, while the latter School of digital-does-creative agencies draws youth close to its chest without fully realising the benefit of having experience.

With continuous development you should never be too old to be at the forefront of creativity. @justjampr

But both schools have something to learn from each other about valuing themselves and their junior team members.

Traditional creative agencies can learn to value digital and know that coming from a digital background does not deny someone traditional, ‘deep’ ways of working.

Digital agencies can learn to value the rigour and experience that creative agencies offer – something that, in a rapid online world, gets thrown out of the window for a quick or cheap option.

For many junior team members, their creative career is only just beginning: on either side of them is someone telling them they’re young and another telling them they’re old. Their role is to value their managers’ experience, whatever their age. A manager’s role is to value theirs.


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