Are Millennials and GenZ changing advertising? Yes!

I guest lectured at St. Cloud State University recently and and was asked this question:

Can advertising be a win-win for business and consumers?

This presentation is my response.

A world in motion, and Africa is setting the pace.

I talk a lot about how the world is re-making itself. As I study the changes that are occurring, I’m constantly reminded that the world outside the U.S. is vast. There are significant pockets of activity going on that don’t necessarily receive a lot of attention in the U.S., yet they are starting to define what civilization is going to look like in the very near future. 

This thought has crossed my mind a lot during the current World Cup tournament. It's watched globally by billions, so clearly holds great cultural significance to many people around the world, yet only a third of Americans tune in. It's an odd sort of disconnect, and I was reminded of it during several recent interviews I did with global Millennials, in which I encountered more signs of significant (and positive) change taking place around the world that might not be very apparent to some in North America.

This spring, a new web series called “An African City” made its debut. Created by Nicole Amarteifio, a Ghanian writer, film-maker and international development expert, the series is set in Ghana and follows the lives of five intelligent, sophisticated young women who return to their hometown of Accra after living abroad. 

I recently connected with Esosa E, one of the lead actresses, and we chatted about her involvement in the series and other topics. In addition to being an actress, Esosa is a writer, director, artist, fashion designer and vegan blogger (she’s also pursuing a master’s degree!). Her community of friends and collaborators spans the globe, so I asked for her perspective on what it means to be a global citizen – specifically, a global millennial. 

Esosa E

Esosa E

“Traveling and having the experience of being  ‘other’ [non-local] is so important, because you realize that wherever you are, I am that. I have a very clear understanding that anything that happens anywhere in the world can affect me, or is related to me. The Internet and the communication that happens nowadays also breaks down the idea that I can pretend I’m in my own little bubble. You become aware of the welfare of worldwide citizens.” 

Esosa also emphasized the importance of storytelling as a tool to create empathy and galvanize global communities around issues and goals.

“Storytelling is so powerful. It can change the way you see everything. For example, I was studying fashion design and had an epiphany: I was concerned with how different people, especially black people, were portrayed in the media. Globally and being part of the African Diaspora, there are so many stories that haven’t yet been told. I want to blow the roof off things and show different aspects of Africa and not continue to be stereotyped. I want to show humans. All sides.”

Esosa’s already-impressive body of work, combined with her future goal of founding a film studio that produces films that accurately depict all aspects of African culture make it obvious that she will have an impact on the world. 

So, I started this post by mentioning large-scale changes that might not be on the radar of some Americans. As a result of my conversation with Esosa, I came across one:

Nigeria is now the world’s 2nd largest film industry! Known as ‘Nollywood’, the film community in Nigeria recently surpassed Hollywood to land in the #2 spot behind India (Bollywood)! 

It's yet another sign of the exciting growth that's happening in Africa, which is home to 7 of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world. Many African nations are also experiencing incredible population growth, which means that over one-third of the world’s population will be African by the year 2100!

There is a lot of activity in the world right now, and if we pay attention to the stories being told by new voices - like Esosa E and Nicole Amarteifio - we'll become more aware of a new human narrative that is being crafted. It's a good one. 

Coming up next: Interviews with two more global millennials, one of whom recently launched a project that could positively impact 200 million people. Seriously. 

Jagriti Yatra: India's Millennial Entrepreneurs

I launched this blog by stating my belief that some sort of universal shift is underway. In other words, the world’s equilibrium has been disturbed. And according to the laws of physics, when equilibrium is disturbed, something gets set in motion. In this case, it’s Millennials. Literally.

Picture this:

Teams of motivated, insightful young people decide to solve the world’s biggest problems. They work individually to develop ideas. Then, they meet up in a city and board a train that has been outfitted with everything from sleeping and dining facilities to spaces equipped with presentation technology.

The train makes its way across the country for a week or two, during which the collaborators share ideas, enhance each other’s thinking, and reflect. Periodically, the train stops so they can visit local communities and engage with entrepreneurs and visionaries.

Finally, they arrive at a destination on the other side of the country and head back to their homes with a clearer vision of what they can do to improve their communities.

These journeys are starting to happen all over the world. In fact, two took place recently, one in India and one in the United States. Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with organizers from both, and I came away inspired and even more convinced that civilization (or, as Millennial author David Burstein calls it, the “human operating system”) is experiencing a massive re-boot.

My first conversation was with Ashutosh Kumar, the Executive Director of Jagriti Yatra, a transcontinental train journey that takes “hundreds of India’s highly motivated youth on a fifteen-day national odyssey and introduces them to the unsung heroes of India.”

 

The group’s first journey took place in 1997, which was the 50th anniversary of India’s independence. The purpose was to travel across the country and observe the changes that had taken place over the 50 years.

The focus changed in 2007, Ashutosh explained, because “the organizers realized that India had 704 million people below the age of 30, meaning it would soon become the world’s most youthful country.” (Even surpassing China!)

“They also realized that India was producing 10 million college graduates each year, but only adding about 3.5 million jobs.”

That meant millions of motivated, educated youth were entering the job market every year unable to find employment. So the Jagriti leaders decided to focus on empowering India’s youth to become entrepreneurs, hoping they would, in turn, invent new economic engines that would reduce the employment gap, create a sustainable middle class, and help end India’s crippling cycle of poverty.

Realizing that the majority of India’s youth are concentrated outside urban centers, the Jagriti team crafted a train route that would connect India’s college-educated Millennial youth with their peers around the country – especially those in the remotest areas - to learn about their real needs and challenges and to create business opportunities.

Some of India's Millennial entrepreneurs.

Some of India's Millennial entrepreneurs.

It’s working! Since 2007, over 200 new businesses have been launched! In addition, Jagriti Yatra's success has caught the attention of international corporations like Google, which has led to plans for more journeys. In fact, the next one departs in December.

The future looks very bright for India, thanks to initiatives like Jagriti Yatra. If its youth are given access to education and technology, receive continued support from government and business leaders, and are empowered to identify solutions, they can create new engines of prosperity for their country.

Consulting and collaborating on the train.

Consulting and collaborating on the train.

That’s good news for everyone, because with 700+ million youth actively working to create a new middle class, the momentum of India will extend far beyond its borders. The result? India’s Millennials can play a leading role in transforming the global economy, and more importantly, the world itself.