About What The 15-Year-Old Morgan Stanley Intern Said…
- July 14th, 2009
- 4 Comments
“Put a skeptical 15-year-old on your payroll.” For those of you who weren’t in attendance at the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup, these words of wisdom were spoken by youth guru and Mashup keynote speaker Josh Shipp as advice to any brand with an interest in the demo. And don’t they seem prescient now?
If Matthew Robson, the skeptical 15 year old intern behind the sensation-inducing media report on teen habits, wasn’t being paid by Morgan Stanley before, the job offers are surely rolling in now. From the Financial Times:
” [The report was] one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen – so we published it”, said Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s European media team.
‘We’ve had dozens and dozens of fund managers, and several CEOs, e-mailing and calling all day.’ He said the note had generated five or six times more responses than the team’s usual research.
On the one hand, it’s an encouraging turn of events. To generate that type of enthusiasm from fund managers and CEOs, not to mention incite a media frenzy, all simply by formalizing the commonplace practice of… asking the intern. I mean, haven’t teens and twentysomethings always been the de facto in house youth experts in the office?
That’s why, less notable than the insight itself [well-trodden territory for those of us who live in the youth space] was the credit and credibility Robson was awarded for his work. Sure, it had the trappings of a publicity stunt—offering the inner workings of a real, live teen to inquiring minds of the financial industry—but I couldn’t help but appreciate the transparency. From the report’s introduction:
..we asked a 15 year old summer work intern, Matthew Robson, to describe how he and his friends consume media. Without claiming representation or statistical accuracy, his piece provides one of the clearest and most thought provoking insights we have seen. So we published it.
Say what you will about the findings (more on that in a bit) that came out of the unscientific methodology, but the effort to recognize and reward young employees (or future employees) seems like a step in the right collaborative direction. Especially for an old-school intergenerational company like Morgan Stanley and the conventionally non-youthy space of finance.
That said, before other similarly conventionally non-youthy businesses take the cue and follow suit, let’s hope this other piece of sage advice floats their way: interns are not the definitive litmus test of teenage taste. They are a starting point, and a great one at that, but one teen and their friends can’t take the place of research. A couple sticking points from the report:
Personal tastes vs. fact. To his credit, Robson mostly sticks with general terms, but when he does get specific, for instance parenthetically reporting on the popularity of anime—“Many teenagers use YouTube to watch videos (usually anime which cannot be watched anywhere else)”—I feel skeptical and slightly frustrated with the language that nonchalantly implies the observation as fact. The same goes for his note that “Teenage boys (generally) watch more TV when it is the football season, often watching two games and related shows a week (for a total of about 5 hours of viewing).”
Subtle shifts get lost. After the report that came out just yesterday on UK teens downloading from file-sharing sites less and streaming more, Robson’s lack of emphasis on this trend with his note that, “a large majority (8/10) [of teens are] downloading [music] illegally from file sharing sites” stuck out as off the mark.
Of course, “real” research has its own problems, as we’ve discussed before on Ypulse. All the more reason why companies should ideally do both—talk to their interns or kids and looking at research critically—to create an approach based on a combination of the two.