Ramaa Mosley directed her first commercial when she was 16 years old. It was for Naked Juice, before the brand was bought by Pepsico in 2007. Since then, Mosley began mentoring young directors and came to the concluson that the work they were doing was much more relevant to the youth market than anything adults could do.
That led to her epiphany: "What if these incredibly talented, prodigious teens were allowed to make the content that's targeted at their age group?"
So in 2013 she founded Adolescent, a global creative studio dedicated to content made by youth for youth.
The company does its own research around youth and has a think tank, so sometimes brands and ad agencies go to Adolescent to help with campaign ideas or data around teens. Other times, they ask Adolescent's teen talent to ideate and produce content, including online and TV ads, short films and more.
"We currently have over 500 creators in our network around the world and we kept it small because we're going for extreme talent and ability," says Mosley. "Unlike a bigger company that might sign thousands of people and is looking for anybody, we're looking for the most interesting creators with a story."
The studio's signed talent ranges in age from 11 to 25 years old. However, Mosley says Adolescent doesn't want people to feel like they "age out," so if a director is outside of that range and can create relevant youth content, then the studio will still work with him or her.
Some commercials directed by Adolescent talent that have run on TV include ESPN's "Kids" spot by 13-year-old Hannah Gonera and 16-year-old True Jackson; Target's "The Project" by 17-year-old Claire Jantzen; and Nascar's "Tutelage" by 14-year-old Amelia Conway.
Galen Bernard, executive creative director of 77 Ventures Creative who worked with Adolescent on the Nascar spot, told Ad Age that Conway was a "great creative partner" and "the work was perfect and reached its target."
Adolescent also has a content site named Adolescent.net that allows Gen Zers to upload things they've created, such as web series, films, music, written stories and more. The Adolescent in-house team filters through the content every day to find standout talent who they may want to sign. Others who may need more time to grow are put into an incubator process.
Working with young talent has many rewards, such as helping teens fulfill their dreams, says Adolescent co-founder Hope Farley, but it also has its challenges. One time on a shoot for Hasbro, Farley says a producer called to ask how the studio could ensure him that his $500,000 shoot wouldn't be ruined by a 13-year-old kid.
"These kids are so responsible and so equipped to tell their story that they're not going to mess it up," she says. "Ramaa also is a creative bond for them and we surround the teams with professional crews."
When Steve Ross, director of content production at McGarryBowen, worked with Adolescent and its young directors, he admitted that he was a little nervous. "Who wouldn't be?" he says.
"Plus, it's a producer's job to have some degree of nervousness on every job," he adds. "Having said that, knowing that Ramaa and Hope were going to be shepherding these shoots provided lots of relief."
Ross says the Adolescent process works because it allows young directors to "employ their unique skills and perspective" while providing oversight from industry veterans.
Parents are also on set for any children under the age of 18 and Adolescent makes sure it adheres to all labor laws.
One of the most exciting things right now, says Farley, is that brands and agencies have been talking more about needing to reach and work with Gen Z in the last few months.
"It seems like people are getting it," she says. "We were in a desert when we started and no one understood the importance, but after four years, people are coming around."