It should have been a dreadful keynote for a dreadful conference: the Turner Emerging Consumers Summit, which also went by the name “Deep Shift” and had the tagline “Dealing with disruption and the younger media consumer” (that should be your first warning). It was a one-day get-together of television marketers (second warning ahoy) to discuss approaches to reach millennials and “plurals” (and there’s your third warning).
💩 Don’t worry if you went “huh?” in response to plurals. It’s a term that Turner Broadcasting is trying to make happen, and it refers to people born after 1997. If you’re unimpressed with that term, other broadcasting people have come up with even lamer ones: MTV calls this demographic “Founders”, and ABC Family is leading the race to the neologistic bottom with their term, “Becomers”.
As I was saying, it should have been a dreadful keynote for a dreadful conference, but it wasn’t, thanks to keynote speaker Adam Conover, star of the CollegeHumor video series turned TV series Adam Ruins Everything. Adam took his Adam Ruins Everything schtick — debunking commonly-held misconceptions with facts and comedy — and applied it to his keynote, titled Millennials Don’t Exist (and with the alternate title Adam Ruins Millennials).
Here’s the video of his keynote:
The main points of Adam’s presentation, which you really should watch because he’s quite entertaining, are:
- Older people having been saying “they don’t make young people like they used to” throughout history, from the story of Cain and Abel (about 1400 BCE) to that quote commonly misattributed to Hesiod (700 BCE) to more recent pieces in Time about the Me Generation (1970s) and Generation X (1990s).
- Thinking about generations has always been reductive and condescending to the people being described. It’s no different from how we see “the other” — our group is made of individuals, each with a combination of characteristics and experiences that make him or her unique, while that other group are a monolithic “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all” type.
- It’s odd saying that the current group of American twentysomethings are lazy when they’re also the group with the largest percentage ever who are working as unpaid interns who are “benefiting” from “experience”.
- Thinking about the cohort of people living in the U.S. who were born between 1980 and 2000 as a single, monolithic group is especially useless as they’re the most diverse 20-year group that the country has ever had.
- And finally, the “how to sell to / deal with a particular generation” is largely snake oil sold by William Strauss and Neil Howe, a sketch comedian and an economist who came together to invent a whole management theory and a pricey consulting business to fleece that most gullible business department: HR.
Why Millennials suck (okay, not really): A more in-depth look at the made-up phenomenon of Millennials and its creators, Strauss and Howe. What they’re really selling are expensive employee horoscopes tarted up in management-fad drag.
Adam Ruins Everything. This show’s good fun. It’s just had its first season, with a second one coming up in August. The video above is from the “Adam Ruins Sex” episode and explains the real reason you’re circumcised.
And finally, the Millennials in the Workplace video (shown above), which I’m including because it’s fun to annoy twenty-somethings.