Age Is Just a Number

Max McClaskie, creative technologist, Hill, Holliday
Max McClaskie, creative technologist, Hill Holliday

The 4A’s invites members to share insights and opinions on a myriad of subjects. Max McClaskie, a creative technologist at Hill Holliday, recently won the Young Speaker Award at the agency for this speech. He shares his thoughts an ideas on age with us here.

Before my life revolved around code, technology and marketing, I spent my time as a history major, looking at how past events influenced both the present and the future. Thinking about the history of advertising, many things remained unchanged until the inception of the Internet—and later, social media. Once, TV and radio dominated ad budgets and agencies made a name for themselves by excelling at producing for those mediums.

Over time, agencies weren’t as sought after for fresh ideas because of a growing supply of creators. Fortunately, Hill Holliday, my agency, is known for its long client relationships—some lasting more than 30 years.

Usually this streak of success breeds a sense of comfort: Why change when revenue is up and awards are decorating our shelves? As much as we’d like to kick back and relax, we all know that times have changed. As a result, how we approach our clients, and advertising in general, is also changing.

As I write this on behalf of the “younger generation” (or, to use one of advertising’s favorite buzzwords, “Millennials”), I’m reminded that we possess a great advantage in this time of transformation. Our understanding and extensive use of both social media and other communication channels allows us to not only interpret the platforms themselves, but to also constantly remain educated about the changing landscape that we’re paid to learn about and act upon. More importantly, Millennials make up a quarter of the U.S. population and roughly 21 percent of consumer discretionary purchases—a market estimated to be over one trillion dollars in buying power. So, what does that mean? Essentially, we’re a considerable portion of the population and we have money to spend. We are the ideal target market, and who could possibly know us any better than ourselves?

A few months ago, we all sat in a meeting where our CEO and the rest of the agency’s senior leadership team mapped out a vision for our agency. Focused on our capabilities, new business and the like, what wasn’t explicit was that all of this is contingent upon us—the “young” makers and doers.

Millennials are the core demographic possessing the knowledge and drive to create more integrated and engaging campaigns than ever before, influence and make decisions and ultimately take over the reins of this industry. Gone are the days when age was a defining characteristic of a leader. Junior-level employees are now concepting ideas for client work and new-business pitches. And, on a larger scale, younger members of our industry are gracing the stage of events likes Cannes and CES, as well as actively contributing to numerous industry publications. Years ago, the importance of junior- and mid-level employees was not to drive ideas or decisions, but rather to carry out the menial, day-to-day tasks of a business. The mere fact that I, a 25-year-old, have the opportunity to speak to you today says a great deal about the progressiveness taking place in the world of business.

So, this leads me to a final observation: If we don’t continue to evolve and push the envelope of the work we produce, there are countless other businesses, both large and small, that are chomping at the bit for the broad spectrum of clients that we’ve worked so hard to win and hold onto. Although not every client needs a website, app, social media campaign, revised brand strategy or programmatic media buy, a good idea can come from anywhere. Collaboration is in our nature as a generation; it enables us to keep fresh ideas in our heads, which fuels the fire within all of us. This fire is what keeps us moving, learning new skills and meeting new people—and prevents us from becoming stagnant. We are paving the way for future generations, leveling the playing field in the world of business and proving on a daily basis that age is just a number.