Looking at the state of the media business today, one has to marvel at a fundamental and troubling contradiction: we all know that consumers are evolving in rapid and dramatic ways . . . and yet we’re doing a terrible job keeping pace with that change as an industry, specifically in whom we recruit and employ.
I got my start twenty-three years ago when an especially generous and kind young editor gave me my first job at a small-circulation weekly newspaper in rural Connecticut as part of a minority internship program. Since then I’ve been proud to work my way through the ranks and across the world into the incredibly fortunate position I have now at Microsoft leading our global partnerships and creative teams. That pride, however, is challenged by the fact that as I have progressed into working with the most senior leaders in our industry, the less I encounter people who look like me or share my minority history.
This past winter, I had the incredible luck of meeting Lincoln Stephens at an industry luncheon in New York City. Lincoln is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Marcus Graham Project, a non-profit focused on developing the next generation of young, diverse leaders in the advertising and marketing industry. Following numerous conversations between our teams, we ventured down to Dallas this summer to participate in Marcus Graham Project’s ICR8 boot camp– a program that takes carefully selected young professionals that forms into a pop-up agency for 10 weeks to work on a variety of client assignments ranging from startups, large brands and nonprofits.
Our assignment was to collaborate with this summer’s boot camp agency – named Y5 – on the creative and strategic pitch for Lisnr, an audio platform that gives artists a new way to connect with fans. The Microsoft team – consisting of creative and solution specialists, user experience designers, as well as some of our top mobile and Windows experts – brainstormed with Y5 on ways to incorporate a Windows 8 music app into their pitch. We whiteboarded ideas and worked with the team on wireframes and mock-ups to show a clear vision as to why developing this app would be an essential and unique part of the Lisnr strategy.
We often talk about getting technology into the hands of the millennial crowd and why diverse perspectives are so important to the future of our industry, but the work that Lincoln and his team lead is showing us how it gets done. I was truly inspired when I saw the final Lisnr presentation and what the Y5 agency was able to accomplish in such a rapid format. And it’s great to see strong voices, such as project participant Remy Sylvan’s featured in Advertising Age this week, emerging from programs like these.
I am thrilled that the larger Advertising Week community will now have the chance to see this new thinking when Y5 joins me and 4A’s President & CEO Nancy Hill on stage for this Wednesday’s 2 p.m. “Cultivating the Next Generation: Innovation & People” session. I can’t wait to hear their thoughts on how we can capture the interest of young professionals entering the workforce and develop them into industry leaders. It’s their time. It’s our future.
Stephen Kim, Vice President for Global Agencies & Accounts