The Ogilvy Millennials in Marketing Summit

When Ogilvy & Mather Chairman and CEO John Seifert meets with clients, there’s one thing he hears consistently: We want millennials.

Not just millennial employees, but millennial expertise, millennial ideas, millennial leadership. The millennials, like any other generation, has its share of detractors (lay off the avocado toast if you want a roof over your head, you guys), but criticisms aside, simple math means that millennials will soon comprise the majority of the workforce. In opening the festivities at the 2017 Millennials in Marketing Summit—hosted by Ogilvy’s Young Professionals Network in conjunction with Forbes—Seifert made clear his belief that millennial thinking isn’t just what agencies and their clients need to succeed in the future, but what they need to lead in the now. As the last CEO in Ogilvy’s history to be mentored by every previous CEO in the company’s history, Seifert knows the importance of cultivating a new generation of leaders, and not waiting to do so.

“We have to go through a process of redesigning what it means to be a leader in this company, and it does not mean you’ve passed the 35-year mark,” Seifert said. And it was an appropriate night for that sentiment, as Forbes brought along a number of members of its exclusive 30 Under 30 club—those who have made a tremendous impact in their field before reaching that ripe old age.

Among those on hand to speak on their experiences and expertise: Daniel Fine, Founder and CEO of Glass-U and NEU; Rachel Tipograph, Founder and CEO of MikMak; Vincent Cacace, Founder and CEO of Vertebrae; Aaron Firestein, Co-Founder of BucketFeet; JJ Johnson, Co-Owner and Chef of Ingrained Hospitality; Carrie Hammer, Founder of Role Models Not Runway Models; and Arad Malhotra, Co-Founder of Skyless Game Studios.

Pictured L to R: Jenny Rooney, CMO Network Editor, Forbes; Daniel Fine, Founder and CEO of Glass-U and NEU; Rachel Tipograph, Founder and CEO of MikMak; Vincent Cacace, Founder and CEO of Vertebrae. Photo courtesy of Forbes. 


A major takeaway from both of the panels was the idea of “white space”, the opportunity that each entrepreneur and leader was able to spot and take advantage of in crafting their business ideas. It’s true that locating the opportunity has forever been the basis of business, but the first digital generation seems keenly able to do so in today’s rapidly changing atmosphere. Tipograph spent time as Gap’s global head of digital and social, and saw that when it came to commerce, brands were missing out on the future of online engagement—video. The standard digital tools of promotional emails and retargeted advertising just annoy people, Tipograph said, not to mention they train people to never shop at full price.

Recalling her time at Gap, Tipograph would constantly say to her co-workers, “Gap.com should feel more like Netflix and Snapchat than Amazon or Alibaba.” Whether you think that’s true or not, today’s marketing focuses more and more on meeting the consumer where they are and providing or enhancing their experiences. If consumers are flocking towards online video and enjoy the experience they have on those platforms, why would a brand not want to be a part of that?

And though it wasn’t explicitly said or spoken about, it’s undoubtedly true that diversity was a major theme of the night. Perhaps not in the way that comes to mind first—though the panelists and audience did indeed feel representative—but in the wide range of experiences that led each entrepreneur to their heights. Johnson mans the kitchen at Minton’s, one of Harlem’s top restaurants, and is interested in the incredible array of foods and cuisines that have intersected throughout the African diaspora. Firestein didn’t have any big plans to become a successful businessman. Rather, when traveling in Argentina, he met what would become his future partner, a fellow sneakerhead whose business acumen was the perfect pair for Firestein’s artistic vision. Every entrepreneur, especially in the millennial generation, has their own unique tale.

That mix of diverse experiences, expertise, optimism and digital-by-nature thinking is what businesses are searching for and what the leaders of the future will bring to the world. “I think in our world, youth is currency,” Tipograph said. The business world is stocking up.

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