I was curious whether they had any cynicism about advertising --
you know, helping to sell stuff people don't need. Their idealism
surprised me. Martin saw real value in getting the word out about
good products that deserve to be successful. They acknowledged that
advertising could be manipulative, but they are more focused on the
power to inform people and solve problems like the economy or
global warming. They don't like ads that manufacture problems that
people don't have. As for favorite ads, they unanimously and
emphatically said Apple, but for reasons that surprised me a bit.
Lakshmi cited the simplicity, the soothing voice and the music.
Nothing about the product.
When I asked what was hot in their program, they answered in
unison: "Social media." What else, I asked? "Social media," they
repeated. Here's where the conversation veered off center. They see
the social-media universe very differently than I do, and there
were some surprising contradictions in their responses.
While they all acknowledged its importance, there is much about
social media as a career that doesn't appeal to them, especially
the always-on aspect of blogs and social networks. Someone said,
"Why pursue a career in social media? It's what we do with our free
time." They are also suspicious of the hype, especially around
specific platforms like Twitter, and suspect that it has peaked.
They are much more curious about what's the next big thing. Margo
said she is interested in where people will experience social
media, and everyone expressed excitement about applications that
will make social media more useful. Margo mentioned an application
that integrates Google with Craigslist, so, for example, if you're
looking for an apartment, you can see the location.
All three confirmed a fact about Twitter that has been picked up
in the media: teenagers and college kids find it boring. They're
not interested in what their peers are posting. They see it as a
platform for people in their 30s and above who like to share
content. Lakshmi made a great point: "Twitter is not just for
people. It's a great platform for fiction and entertainment."
Facebook, on the other hand, "is for your life. It has your books,
pictures and friends."
Since business consumers increasingly rely on blogs for product
information, I was curious if they read or followed a lot of
bloggers. Only their friends, they said. All said that if they want
content, they go to traditional news sites that they trust. Another
surprise was a general dissatisfaction with Google for the
difficulty in pinpointing specific data. Margo uses KGB, the mobile
search service, but predicts it will fail because it charges 99
cents per query.
So, what does the future look like, I wanted to know. Martin
wants to spend a year with Teach for America and then explore a
career as a writer. Lakshmi hopes to get the chance to work on a
great campaign, on the magnitude of Apple. Margo wants to play a
role in a world-class agency where she's excited by the work and
surrounded by good people. All three fear monotony and boredom.
They want to make enough money to be comfortable, but wealth won't
be the deciding factor in their life choices.
We've got some good citizens in the making, and I'm feeling
optimistic about the future.
~ ~ ~
You can follow Phil Johnson on Twitter: @philjohnson.