Ad agency puts its babies in a corner

Jessica Perry//December 22, 2014

Ad agency puts its babies in a corner

Jessica Perry//December 22, 2014

Here’s the deal: Grey — a New York advertising agency whose clients include Covergirl and Gillette — has literally herded 40 of its millennial assistant account executives into a designated area of its office called Base Camp.Here’s the problem: This company is treating its millennial employees like children, and to me, “Base Camp” doesn’t make that sound any more appealing.

While reading this Bloomberg Businessweek article, my flashbacks included Thanksgivings at the “kids’ table,” assigned seating at the Blair Academy dining hall and finally getting an internship with a production company only to be asked to “take notes” and “get coffee” for the higher executives I was there to supposedly learn from.

Feelings arising from said memories? Frustration, complacency, sarcasm, depression, aggravation, hopelessness, resentment … the list goes on.

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So why did Grey think this was a good idea?

Well, according to Michael Houston — Grey’s CEO of North America — the seating arrangements would help to reduce workplace friction by easing the strain on managers and helping millennials learn how to appropriate transition into professional life.

I mean, I get it. Millennials are wildly disruptive and profound annoying. We always want to know what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, how we can improve and what other projects are available for us to take on. How terrible for busy supervisors.

In addition, millennials are part of the “trophy-for-participation” generation and therefore believe we should be rewarded for our hard work — a truly selfish and distasteful concept.  

And lastly, we have no respect for hierarchy. Even if we’ve proved our worth by earning the company more money and/or recognition than it ever has before, we really shouldn’t expect a promotion without having had paid our dues. Even employees who’ve sat idle in their cubicle for years depleting company resources without being truly innovative deserve better pay and opportunities than us.

So it’s no wonder Grey quite literally shoved millennials into a corner to keep them quiet and at bay.

But if this were actually just a ploy to keep the millennials from taking over, well, it only just benefited their revolution.

Because millennials — as defined by NJBIZ, those between the ages of 21 and 35 — will represent one in every three employees in the U.S. next year.

And regardless of the reduction of mentorship opportunities and diversity in corporate ideas that will inevitably result from this “Base Camp” workplace design, Grey might actually be a great place for a millennial employee to hang out with twenty- and thirtysomethings in a fun work environment while learning the skills to advance them elsewhere.

No, Grey did not create a culture that would help retain millennial talent — but it did (as Houston had desired) create healthy competition against millennial employees.

Who can get away with the most? Who can get a better paying, more involved job elsewhere first? Who might graduate to the “adult table” only to wish they were back at the “kids’ table”?

Game on.


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