Maybe it's just we who are feeling older, but has anyone else noticed how suddenly peach-faced the media industry looks? No accident, that. With most every advertiser and brand marketer clamoring for their nanosecond of fame in the new media universe, it's pretty clear that agencies have turned to the next generation to help unlock that elusive door to digital stardom. Enter the digital nativists—youngsters who grew up with a mouse instead of a rattle. Would you be surprised to know that this is the youngest class of Media All-Star winners that AdweekMedia has ever honored? You shouldn't be.
Consider that two of this year's honorees aren't out of their 20s. Beth Doyle, our Rising Star at 28, spearheads VivaKi's The Pool project, charged with creating the next generation of ad plays on emerging media. Starcom's Karen Umeki (one year her junior) is working with magazines like Rolling Stone on experimental ad placements that offer more cut-through value than static pages.
Other All Stars are creaking along in their early and (gasp) even mid-30s. Razorfish's Paul Gelb, 30, was actually nominated as a Rising Star, but his creative drive in creating a mobile practice for his agency demonstrated a wisdom beyond his years (especially because mobile, rumored to be on the verge of exploding for years now, finally seems to be doing just that). As one colleague put it, Gelb "was doing mobile before mobile was cool." Even Mindshare's Phil Cowdell, our exec of the year who's snared $2 billion in new client business, is only 46.
But the central fact here is actually not the youth of the winners, but the youth of digital itself, which, as everyone knows, is fast rewriting the media-buying rule book. Keeping atop the changes doesn't require a fresh face so much as a fresh approach—and the talent to generate innovation, recast agency culture and create breakout work. That's what Targetcast tcm co-founders Steve Farella and Audrey Siegel have done by placing the digital team at the center of the company's new offices. It's why MagnaGlobal president Elizabeth Herbst-Brady has tapped new research and analysis methodologies. And it's why Hill Holliday veteran Karen Agresti has expanded her view on local broadcast to include multiple new platforms.
Which is good news for everyone with a 4 or a 5 in front of his age. Media execs may be looking a lot younger, but adaptation and creativity are still—and always will be—what you need to succeed.
MEDIA ALL STARS 2010:
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Phil Cowdell, Mindshare
Lauren Barbara, Chrysalis
David Campanelli, Horizon Media
Karen Umeki, Starcom USA
Dave Rosner, Initiative
Karen Agresti, Hill Holliday
Paul Gelb, Razorfish
Greg Kahn, Optimedia
Elizabeth Herbst-Brady, Magna Global
Steve Farella/Audrey Siegel, TargetCast tcm
Paul Leys, East Coast director, OMD's Ignition Factory
RISING STAR: Beth Doyle, VivaKi
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