A lot has been said about Millennials. In the last year or two it’s become the most coveted target audience and has been this largely because of their size and the susceptibility to messaging. While it’s not been the rule in any way, some have gone out of their way to depict Millennials as a generation of phone zombies hoping to get lucky off an app. I’m not denying that these characters exist but instead of labeling them a Millennial phenomenon I’d rather go on to say it’s a ‘that guy’ situation. That guy that’s always got an answer – the ‘if you want to get rich all you gotta do’ guy.
In 2012, in the shadow of the recession, a United Colors of Benetton launched an ad called ‘Unemployee of the year’. It sat under the larger banner of the unhate campaign. The campaign itself never made it to our shores but thanks to what the internet is, the film did. The commercial was a powerful one and was the first that showed the tenacious side of Millennials. They might well have been a generation of cell phone geeks but they joined the workforce during tremendously difficult times. The earth was moving under their feet as they were digging their foundations.
Uneployee of the Year celebrates not the achievements of Millennials but rather their character and tenacity. It looks at who they are more than what they’ve done. It looks at their willingness to try rather than to just give up. It’s a fighting spirit in hard fight. It’s the tough that got going when the going got tough.
A few lines that struck me as memorable in the ad is ‘we can do hard things’ and ‘sex, job and rock & roll’. It laughs in the face of the generations of the hippies. The ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll’ crowd that dare to say that Millennials can’t do hard things.
It’s easy package an average product as creative and try to push it down the throat of a generation that has nothing but their wits and their creativity. The long game is however going to be a bit different. In some ways this film was irrelevant (the people are surprisingly beautiful and they all somehow found purpose) but in other ways it struck a nerve. It allowed us to think about Millennials in an aspirational way. They might just be the generation to combine the creativity of Generation X with the hard working gusto of the Baby Boomers.