Your Next Client? The CEO's Son

Teenage Set Holds Surprising Amount of Tech Know-how, execution

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I've written about the generation gap before. It's something that has held my interest for a while, especially as new technologies emerge and the divide between those who use and understand them and those who don't widens.

Noelle Weaver Noelle Weaver
Perhaps a you or colleague has heard the following story: On Monday morning the client's CMO or CEO asks the marketing director to research a new website or mobile phone technology spotted over the weekend. "Sure!" the director exclaims. "Let's dig into it. By the way, how'd you find out about it?"

His response: "My son showed it to me."

Pimping out a MySpace page is becoming "old school" for teens and tweens who logged on years ago. Their experience has taught them how to use technology. What we're beginning to see are the ways they're now creating it, too.

I was catching up on some industry reading this weekend and found myself on Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine. Jarvis mentions his son, Jake, has built a new online venture called Middio, a search engine and player for music videos on YouTube. The intent is to help folks locate their favorite musician's videos with fewer results of wannabes singing to the camera from their bedrooms. I visited the site. It's good. Having struggled with the quality of YouTube's search function myself, I found Middio's navigation useful. TechCrunch gave the site favorable write-ups.

The truly amazing thing, though, is not what Middio can do, nor that someone has created a search engine on top of a search engine -- but that the entire concept was conceived and excecuted by a 15-year-old boy.

High-tech companies often consult with industry experts to research trends and new technologies that can drive product development. That's exactly what Cisco did in teaming up with MTVU to find the next killer web application. Their Digital Incubator contest asks student teams to submit their most innovative content concepts for broadband users. Based on the success of the first round, the two have recently launched round 2.0.

I also came across this gem from Alfred Thompson's blog, Computer Science Teacher:

"I met a 12-year-old programmer yesterday. He was on a field trip to the Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago with his middle school. He'd brought a USB storage stick with a program he'd written on it to show us. What he had written was a very cool web browser. He told me it included about 20,000 lines of C# code."

This takes the generation gap a bit further -- the CEO's son is not only using the technology, he's creating it. And he may soon be your next client.

A younger generation enamored of new forms of communication has special insight that can point the way to the future of digital video, mobile phone applications, GPS technologies and new ways to use the web as a multifaceted social network. Talk about a consumer in control!

Many believe the content these consumers are creating is the future of advertising. We adults are just beginning to discover and use these markets.

We're experiencing the same thing inside our own industry walls. I've witnessed more and more "traditional" creatives from the big shops looking for jobs with the understanding they need to put more than print and TV on their reels. I'm also seeing 20-year veterans partnering with young junior teams to produce fuller, more integrated and "tech-savvy" campaigns. [As I finish this entry, I've just glanced at Doug's post from a few days ago. Happy to read his observations on the young creative talent thriving today.]

It's true that youth and young ideas have always driven this industry. But I wonder, much like the teenagers enamored by new forms of communication, if our brightest ideas and real advent to change lies in the next generation just entering our hallowed halls.
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