UGA Students Research Millennial Behavior in PHD Media-Grady Initiative

The "PHD Grady Creative Collective" present their Millennial behavior research to PHD Media and their clients in New York City.
Five Grady seniors participated in a new initiative to study consumer behavior with PHD Media, a global media and communications agency. 

The competitive media planning program, known as  “PHD Grady Creative Collective,” consisted of: Lexy Farris, a mass media arts major from Roswell; Alice Gwin, an advertising major from San Antonio, Texas; Tien Phan, an advertising major from Warner Robins; Lacey Wen, an advertising major from Duluth; and Sarah Zagorski, an advertising major from Roswell.

The Creative Collective hatched as an idea at Cannes Lions 2011 when the U.S. CEO of PHD spoke of the need to recruit young talent to Dr. Tom Reichert, professor and head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, according to a recent AdWeek article about the initiative.

The semester-long initiative allowed students to research Millennial behavior and present their findings in New York to PHD and some of the agency’s clients. The five questions PHD posed to the Creative Collective included: How does social media impact the way Millennials watch television?; How do Millennials view the concurrent use of TV and mobile?; Which Millennials are likely to be cord cutters?; Do Millennials see value in merging their phones with their wallet?; and What role do influencers play in Millennials' customer journey?

This was a challenging project for the students,” said Dr. Karen King, Jim Kennedy Professor of New Media in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, and advisor to the Creative Collective. “It wasn't enough to know what Millennials are doing, but they were really being pushed to find new insights and to understand what these insights mean for marketing, advertising and media planning decision-makers.”

In addition to their senior-year classes, internships, jobs and other activities, students worked hard on this research project, and in the process were advised by Dr. King. Each student received a $500 stipend from PHD Media and the opportunity to fly to New York to present their work.

The Creative Collective scholars included (l to r): Tien Phan; Alice Gwin; Lexy Farris; Lacey Wen; and Sarah Zagorski.

Based on the students’ findings, they created a report and delivered a two-hour multimedia presentation. “It was fun to watch the students find the insights and unlock the implications of these insights,” King said.

This partnership was a win-win: it provided PHD with another dimension and that extra edge to understand how marketers need to think about better communicating with Millennials, while at the same time allowed the Grady students to represent a generation’s perspective on everything from transformations and activity within social spaces and platforms to the preferences about mobile payments, and the importance of how brands need to behave to stay relevant, including the role of influencers in a Millennials customer journey,” said Tara Nolan, associate director of marketing and communications at PHD.

The opportunity for students to work with PHD Media was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Lacey Wen, who researched Millennials’ smartphone and wallet use. “Not only did I have the opportunity to research a topic that interested me, but I was encouraged to incorporate my own thoughts and ideas. The relationships that were created during the five months among the five Creative Collective scholars and two professors will never be forgotten.”

“It wasn't enough to know what Millennials are doing, but they were really being pushed to find new insights and to understand what these insights mean for marketing, advertising and media planning decision-makers.”  - Dr. Karen King

The students learned a lot from their own research about the Millennial generation. “I'm surprised how disconnected brands are toward our generation,” said Tien Phan. “But I am very glad that I was able to provide some insights to these companies. I learned a lot about myself and the generation that I represent."

“From my research, I found that Millennials are not really watching television programs on their smartphones,” said Alice Gwin, who noted that in-depth interviews with focus groups provided some insights into behavior, which was influenced by slow loading times and phone screen sizes. The findings were presented to PHD in a way that was relatable to their clients.

The project may have some longterm effects for the students and PHD Media. Starting in September, Wen will move to Scottsdale, Arizona to work for Yelp. "I'm extremely excited for my next chapter in life with a new job and new state," she said.

As for PHD, the experience was a rewarding one that could spur further research. "The Creative Collective was such a likeable, interesting bunch that one of PHD’s clients in the audience requested they hold a mini focus group to help steer the future direction of an in-store retail experience," Nolan of PHD said. "PHD wishes the best of luck to our first group of scholars and we happily await the next!"

PHD Media is part of the Omnicom Group, a global leader in marketing and communications, with members including BBDO Worldwide, Porter Novelli, Martin/Williams, DDB Group, among many others.

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