Tuesday, February 19, 2008

5144: Until The Boomers Die.

MultiCultClassics presents a new feature that will appear here regularly (based on visitors’ and editors’ interest): Until The Boomers Die.

Until The Boomers Die will explore events and issues relevant to the multiple generations currently inhabiting the advertising industry.

Contrary to the title implications, this is not necessarily a rant on Baby Boomers. Rather, we recognize that Boomers still maintain a great deal of control in the field. And since most of them are decades away from retirement, it’s inevitable that they must be dealt with daily.

The essays comprising the series will explore ways for all the generations to “get along” in our ever-evolving industry.

The weekly Advertising Age online poll asks, “Do you think special consideration must be made for Millennials entering the workplace?”

The question likely surfaced from a recent Ad Age article by Carol Phillips, president of BrandAmplitude and a marketing instructor at the University of Notre Dame. Phillips offered tips on managing Millennials. It should be noted that Phillips’ perspective was hardly new, as other experts have published similar advice.

Anyway, one can’t help but see the Boomer biases rooted in the Ad Age poll question.

For starters, the question demonstrates a certain cluelessness. To ask, “Do you think special consideration must be made for Millennials entering the workplace?” is like asking, “Do you think special consideration must be made for new media in marketing plans?” The point is, Millennials are already here—they are a significant part of the total workforce. To wonder if special consideration is necessary shows the arrogance so prevalent in our business.

Industry leaders continue to believe in Nazi-like assimilation, where all participants should gleefully conform to exclusive habits and outdated standards of performance. The mindset, incidentally, may be a primary reason why Madison Avenue has struggled and failed with diversity.

It’s also important to read the lessons presented by Phillips. She is not suggesting anything outlandish or even difficult. In fact, the observations reflect basic professional courtesy and respect. Then again, the industry has struggled with those things too.

It should be interesting to view the results of the Ad Age online poll. The answers will clearly display the generation(s) represented by the publication’s readership. Let’s hope someone actually interprets the findings in a meaningful style—and the exercise sparks healthy discussions.

In the meantime, everyone—especially Boomers—ought to consider a simple notion: Millennials and their work-related attitudes and behaviors were ultimately influenced by the generations preceding them. To truly understand the differences, take a long, hard look in the mirror. Or pick up a copy of Millennials Rising by William Strauss and Neil Howe (the book has been around since 2000).

Guess it’s just another subject to ponder until the Boomers die.

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