Global viewpoint from the US

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The emergence of millennials will soon redefine and reshape the American workforce. Here in the US, millennials will become the majority of the workforce by 2015 and, by 2030, this hyper-connected, tech-savvy generation will account for 75 per cent of it, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This extraordinary event comes as the US ad industry faces a talent crisis.

Competing with the Facebooks and Googles for young talent has put the agency community on its heels. For this group, work/life balance is more important than rising up the ranks, gaining a new title every few years on the way to the corner office. Millennials want flexible work schedules, they want to be inspired and they want to be engaged in meaningful work. They demand immediate feedback, have little tolerance for traditional structure and zero patience for hierarchical decision-making.

The opportunity is just as great as the challenge. Agencies and marketers that don’t realise the value of bringing together their veterans and Gen Yers will miss out on fresh and innovative thinking. Those who authentically embrace the change and revamp their organisations to attract, nurture and retain this talent could be the winners for generations to come.  

This generation’s takeover of the workforce comes as technology changes the way advertisers engage with consumers. Remember when the consumer was king? Then it was content. Today, it’s the crowd that moves and shakes the marketing world and makes or breaks brands.  

Competing with the Facebooks and Googles for young talent has put agencies on their heels

From crowdsourcing to crowd-funding to crowd advertising, it’s almost difficult to recall a time when anyone did anything on his or her own. Innovations in cloud, social and mobile technologies have elevated the "wisdom of the crowd" concept to a new, often precarious playing field for marketers and their agency partners.

Marketers are smart to try to harness the power of the technology and the consumer interaction it creates. When done right, like the now case study-worthy Oreo "blackout" Tweet of Super Bowl 2013, a brand can soar on the adoration of the crowd (and on 10,000 retweets in one hour). When careless, like DiGiorno’s #WhyIStayed Tweet that made light of domestic violence, the crowd will speak up and brands better listen.   

It seems a natural next step that agencies and marketers are increasingly enlisting the public in the co-creation of product development and advertising.

2015 could be the year consumer participation becomes the norm, from Tweeting, voting and posting videos to creating advertising. US agencies and brands that fought this trend, for the most part, have come around. Perhaps it’s a keep-your-enemies-close approach but, whatever the motivation, the US ad industry knows that partnership with the people is here to stay.

Alison Fahey is the chief marketing officer at the American Association of Advertising Agencies

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