Millennials, Michael Gove, and Micro-Influencers – Day 3 at AdWeek Europe 2017

This year, as part of my ongoing role in helping to manage MEC’s social media channels, I was offered the chance to spend a day at Ad Week. I was there as a ‘live reporter’, so as I explored everything that AdWeek had to offer I was reporting back over MEC’s social channels, especially on our graduate twitter account. I got to hear from some of the biggest names in the industry, learn about some exciting new start-ups, and got to witness a brilliant debate between Michael Gove and Stephen Kinnock about the authenticity of the rhetoric used in the Leave campaign.

I arrived at Ad Week about 20 minutes early, which gave me a while to gather my bearings. The Picturehouse is a large venue and there were so many things to do and talks to see that I couldn’t choose where to start! Luckily, I had a suggested schedule with me that pointed me in the right direction, so off I went. The whole day was packed with interesting insights and fascinating nuggets of information, and it’s difficult to choose what to write about, but below are some of the key things that I took from the day.

Millennials – Different Ways of Working

My first talk of the day was titled “Millennials: Meet Your Future Boss”, where a panel hosted by Matt Rennie of The Box Plus, and including Rebecca Holman of The Debrief, Paul Davies of Microsoft, Nikki Austen of The Future Laboratory and radio DJ Charlie Hedges discussed the ways in which the working world is rapidly changing.

The speakers focused a lot on the rise of the ‘slashie’ and the portfolio career, with Paul Davies summing this up perfectly by describing the change as being from ‘staircase careers’ to ‘spaghetti careers.’ All speakers also noted that these changes were not occurring just as a result of a group of people, but because of the changing world around us as well; workplace change is being driven by advancements in data, technology, and changing consumers, not just by a younger workforce. As someone just starting out in the working world, it was really interesting to hear from more established people about what they expected from the future and to imagine what my career may look like. Furthermore, whilst the discussion did centre largely on change, it was good to hear that all the speakers agreed that core values in the workplace would remain consistent, it was just observable behaviours that are changing.

Despite the title of the talk, it was also interesting to hear so many of the speakers reject the blanket term ‘millennial’, calling it ‘lazy’ and discussing the unfair assumptions it imposes on those who fit into the age bracket. It was agreed that we cannot simply impose one set of characteristics on an entire group of diverse people, just as we cannot continue to judge a new generation in the same way we did a previous generation, when the zeitgeist is entirely different. Far from labelling millennials as lazy, entitled or disengaged, each speaker was actually asked to end to talk with a positive characteristic they felt millennials possessed, and these included words such as hardworking, realistic, creative, and altruistic.

One of the key words that recurred throughout the talk was ‘flexibility’, and this is one of the most important things that I took away. It is flexibility that is driving different ways of working, whether this is flexibility in work spaces and the rise of hot desking and smarter working, flexibility in terms of working hours and the decline of the conventional 9-5, or flexibility in career paths as outlined earlier. If we want to keep up with the changing workplace, flexibility is key, whether you’re a millennial or not.

Gaming – Are Advertisers Missing a Trick?

Later in the day, I went to another panel discussion, this time surrounding gaming platforms and content and how we as advertisers and marketers could be engaging with them. For me, this was a fascinating subject because it is something I have had limited exposure to, and to learn about it from the experts was great. The panel, hosted by presenter Rick Edwards and consisting of Kieran Long from the V&A Museum, Jo Twist of UKIE, Hollie Bennet of Sony, and George Panayotopoulos of YouTube, dispelled some of the most common myths about gamers and gaming and showed it in an entirely new light. I took 3 main things from the talk, firstly that by misjudging the audience we are missing a marketing opportunity in gaming, and secondly that authenticity in gaming marketing is key. It was also fascinating to hear Kieran Long of the V&A Museum give his perception of the creativity of game creation, describing it as an art form and making me rethink how our definition of creativity and art is formed.

Marketers have widely eschewed using gaming content as a destination for advertising, mostly because we have been misjudging our audience. People tend to write it off as a small ‘sub-culture’ and thus a niche audience. However, in the talk all the panelists outlined what the gaming audience actually looks like – the average age is 32, and there is a high proportion of female gamers. In the UK, male and female demographics are relatively similar, and in the US the proportion of female gamers has actually overtaken male gamers. What is important is to remember that ‘everyone is gaming’, whether you’re playing Candy Crush on your commute or playing hours of Call of Duty on your weekends. This means that using gaming content to advertise provides the opportunity for a brand to be part of a conversation with a hugely engaged audience that is actually very diverse.

However, if we want to engage with this audience there is one thing to remember – authenticity is paramount. Authenticity and trust is an important part of marketing in all areas, but in gaming it is particularly important. The panel pointed out that you are talking to a group of people who have a real passion, and if you are faking that passion and not talking to them in the right language just to sell products, then they will catch on fast. However, if a brand can position themselves in a genuine way using language that works, there is a huge untapped opportunity in the gaming market.

Charlotte Scorer
MEC Graduate