Roaring 20s

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For this report, Advertising Age reporters and editors scoured the marketing world to uncover the generation next of leaders in advertising and media. For this first-ever class of Twentysomethings, we sought and identified individuals who have rapidly assimilated responsibility and demonstrated creativity.

It's an achievement. Having been whipsawed by the best of times and the worst of times, today's unbowed twentysomethings have a lot in common with their "Silent Generation" grandparents. Both groups spent early years blessed by prosperity (1920s/dot-com, "new economy" boom), lived through economic devastation (Great Depression/ dot-com bust), and grappled in adulthood with their country under attack (Pearl Harbor/9-11) and at war (WWII/Afghanistan, Iraq).

No surprise that 41% of today's 20-to-29- year-olds say they feel either quite a bit of pressure or almost more stress than they can bear, according to data that Knowledge Networks culled for this Twentysomethings Special Report. Perhaps that's why humor outscores even special effects and actor endorsements as an element likely to snare twentysomethings' attention in TV spots, according to a survey InsightExpress conducted for AA.

The 37 million-plus Americans aged 20-29 remain optimistic even while they're deeply concerned about their own security, be it job security or personal safety, says David Morrison, president of Twentysomething Inc. The Wharton School MBA founded his youth-market consultancy in 1991 at the age of 22. "They talk about this age group being an accelerated culture, and it is," he says. "There's now taking place an accelerated sophistication, a maturation process. This is a much more mature group than people who were in their 20s back in the '60s."

As for these twentysomethings, "you can't really compare them as much with the boomers as you should the `Silent Generation,' because they've seen the best, they've seen the worst and they're still living through it."