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Gen Z Agency Leadership Marketing

How do gen Zers want the marketing industry to change?

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By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

March 1, 2024 | 8 min read

We gathered eight smart new entrants to the ad business to ask what they really want to see change – including diversity and overcoming stupid stereotypes.

A range of different looking lanterns

Diversity and the death of stereotypes: Gen Z's wishlist for the marketing industry / Steffen B via Unsplash

Generational thinking is inevitably, to some extent, an exercise in oversimplification. The constituents of each generation are as varied as all that came before, so it’s inevitable that we feel unfairly reduced by declarations that our generation has shared characteristics.

But we can’t help it. For a long time, it was millennials’ supposed obsession with avocado on toast preventing them from buying houses. More recently, it’s been gen Z’s turn: they have hard lines in the sand around representation and sustainability, it’s said; they hate hard work; and have had their attention spans melted by TikTok.

To be clear, those are all oversimplifications, and mostly untrue. In an effort to let (some) gen Z-ers speak for themselves, we convened The Drum Network’s semi-regular panel of gen Z new entrants into the marketing industry to find out what they actually care about in 2024.

Lauren Bantock, junior project manager, 2Heads: “I’d like to see companies employee from the bottom and help train people up. A lot of the time, they hire in the middle, and promote people from the middle-up. Rather, I'd like to see agencies bring someone on with no experience, take a chance on people to get into the industry, and then train them all the way to the top.”

Chelsea Mtada, creative strategist, Amplify: “I would like to see more marginalized communities in C-suite and director roles. Remember the black square pandemic, when everybody was hashtagging Black Lives Matter and saying ‘we’re supporting marginalized communities’? And when June comes around, now every brand is waving the pride flag. There’s a lot of performance in corporate spaces when it comes to how they are representing and championing marginalized communities. It’s discouraging to look at all the interns from black, queer, or Asian communities, then look at the leaders and directors, where that diversity is not the case. And of course those C-suite executives are the real decision-makers; they’re the wall behind which is real change. The more we can women, queer people, and people of color in those roles, the better. Otherwise, for young marketeers on the outside looking in, it can feel like there's no room for you.”

Laily Mansourpour, content creator, Agency UK: “It’d be great to see a more diverse range of educational opportunities coming into the industry. It’s great to see more apprenticeships and internships, but a lot of those revolve around luck, or friends, or family. I'm really lucky that I've managed to get an apprenticeship, but friends have really struggled to find them. But university isn’t always the way and I’ve learned so much just from being here for six months from doing training courses, and just being in the office environment.”

Jamie Cooper, organic account manager, Spin: “Marketers and brands should be live to the beat of socio-political moments that really reflect their brand values, because every brand has a changing set of brand values that really do need to be echoed, particularly as people are more inclined to buy from a brand with their particular social values”.

Josie Wakefield, insights analytics manager, Croud: “We need more day-to-day continuous learning and mentoring opportunities, especially intergenerationally. Younger generations grew up with tech; we use social media every day. But older generations have years of advertising experience, which we might not necessarily know about. So I think we should keep that conversation open. My grandma doesn’t use the internet, but she trusts everything that she sees on TV. I don’t know how to market on TV, because I don't do that every day. But I would love to learn. Equally, someone who’s done display advertising might not understand my job every day. Keeping that conversation open would be engaging for every generation.”

Christina Sugimoto, associate manager, accounts, Wasserman: “Growing up as an Asian American in a very predominantly white neighborhood in California, and then going to a predominantly white institution in Boston, I felt like I stood out a lot of the time. A lot of companies are doing a better job of hiring diverse talent, and I’m excited to see the growth that can come from that in the future. But still, although employees might be more diverse, the content we’re producing lacks diversity. Whenever I see an advertisement, I still feel unrepresented. Companies say that they prioritize diverse hiring, which is great, but it’s not reflected in the work they do. I still have yet to see someone that looks like me in an advertisement; I haven’t seen anyone like me in a big-screen movie. Having that representation is so important.”

Sophie Birks, digital marketing analyst, Search Laboratory: “My company actually has a really good internal team for cultural differences, which is something I’ve never experienced at other workplaces. Having such a great internal team of people from different countries and different backgrounds helps us speak to clients and break into different markets. During Ramadan, for example, we have a centralized event where we'll learn more about Ramadan and how that can impact employees. It would be great to see that trickle down more into the day-to-day of what we’re doing and how we help our clients – we still see clients who say they want to break into different markets, but really just want to copy their English campaigns into a different language and hope that it will have the same impact.”

Jess Farnham, senior marketing executive, Connective3: “I think a lot about gen Z stereotypes. Sure, we’ve been brought up on social media, but sometimes companies automatically assume that we’ll know how to make a viral TikTok. Sometimes there’s that pressure on gen Z that we should know how to do those things. Your hobbies and interests outside of being on your phone almost don’t exist: that's all you’re seen as sometimes. It’d be great to see a wider appreciation for other things that we do in our lives, and not be held back because of how we're portrayed.”

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Gen Z Agency Leadership Marketing

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