Adam Conover is the host of truTV’s Adam Ruins Everything, in which he ruins preconceived notions about such widespread topics as how engagement rings are a scam, the TSA doesn’t stop terrorist attacks, and the hymen doesn’t work like you probably think it does. His show has been very popular with the generation we refer to as “millennials”—those born after about 1980—because, as Conover says, he treats them like humans. So, Conover was asked to speak at a recent marketing conference about how to appeal to millennials. His solution? Don’t, because millennials don’t exist. The term is just a name given to millions of young people that seeks to clump a diverse generation together under a blanket term, and is used to define, and ultimately disregard, all of them.
Recent “think pieces” have called millennials the “Me” generation, and decided they are entitled and narcissistic. Conover explains that while that may be true on some level, it was no less true two thousand years ago when the Greek economist Hesiod complained about the youth of his day, and it was certainly no less true when Tom Wolfe called the 70’s the “Me” decade. “Young people are narcissistic. They become less narcissistic as they age, but they become crankier about younger people being narcissistic,” Conover says. “Narcissism is a fact of life — it’s a natural part of growing older, right? It’s a part of your development. So being angry about the younger generation being ‘narcissistic,’ that’s like saying, ‘Oh, this young generation only wants to poop in their diaper! They don’t want to use the bathroom!'”
Conover gives examples of how out of touch brands have been when trying to market to millennials, who are intelligent enough to find that pandering condescending and glib. “Look, young people don’t need you to talk to them in their language. They just want to be treated like intelligent people who are worthy of respect. It’s not rocket science emoji.”