Kids today… This week, I was privileged to drop in on Marquette’s campus in Milwaukee and speak to Jean Grow’s advertising class. Jean is an ex-agency type who now holds a PhD. Last Summer, she invited me to speak on a panel about Women In Advertising. Suffice it to say, she is a whip smart person with an admirable sense of irony–her students can’t know how lucky they are. Anyway, these types of speaking opportunities are always deeply energizing: not every audience I address hangs on my every word with such keen attention.
I was asked to present for the first hour and so I gave a stump speech on convergence that I’ve been giving to clients a lot lately. It highlights changing media habits and how they upend time-honored habits of traditional marketers. Of course, to plugged-in, college-age, digital natives, the material probably seemed less remarkable, but they were unfailingly polite and indulged me very generously. God bless the Jesuits…
More interestingly, the second hour centered on their class assignment: stopping binge drinking. I heard a few interesting ideas and the students had a number of reasonable questions, but their overall attitude seemed to be that this was a Sisyphean task–no way could they reach their friends and colleagues at the heart of the issue. They asked me for advice, nearly pleading for the hint, the secret that would let them complete this task successfully.
And suddenly, I was deeply appreciative that I led Budweiser in my thirties. The simple truth is that they know best how to reach each other. Only they know which method–scare (no), informative (no), humiliation (maybe)–might work on their audience. Because who could know more about their audience than they do? They know what they watch, where they congregate, what feels authentic and what feels fake. The tricky part is trusting that their own knowledge is valid.
Which is where Glinda comes into the equation. As she said to Dorothy right before they the heel-snapping that winds up The Wizard of Oz: “You always had the power…” Indeed. When we live among so many other influences, trusting that little voice in your head can seem pretty intimidating. That’s too bad–I envy the insights they hardly recognize.