1999: Monster.com shuns corporate America in ‘When I Grow Up’ campaign

To celebrate the Ad Club of New York's 120th anniversary, The Drum is inviting readers to share their favorite marketing moments from the past 120 years.

Today’s marketing moment was chosen by Malinda Sanna, founder & CEO of consumer insights firm Spark Ideas and creator of LookLook, a mobile ethnographic app.

Reflecting on the late nineties, it seems almost quaint that people would have been unhappy working in corporate America. After all, those were pretty heady times - lots of opportunity and upward mobility compared with the present day. When Monster.com broke its “When I Grow Up” campaign featuring kids talking about “When I grow up, I want to climb my way up to middle management” and “When I grow up, I want to get paid less for doing the same thing as a man,” it was prophetic - shot in black and white, with sacred choral music in the background.

To me, it shone a bright light on the myth of the secure path up the corporate ladder. I was in my twenties then and as I thought about what I wanted my future to look like, reporting to an office every day was just not in the cards. I literally left the ad agency world the next year to go out on my own, and I’m pretty sure that Monster.com ad had something to do with it. The fact that it initially aired at the Super Bowl certainly helped, but even if it hadn’t, it still would have become a cultural reference and the catalyst for waves of entrepreneurism that followed in the next decade. Now, every kid I know wants to end up doing anything but be in an office all day.

In the years since the campaign debuted, millennials have redefined the way businesses work and what it means to be an employee. And Monster.com was one of the first to hear the rumblings of change in the foundation of the old corporate model.

See the full 120 Marketing Moments in the dedicated online section and find out how to purchase the exclusive book.

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