Gen-z: A group of local college students are capitalizing on their generational experience to break into the marketing world. Courtesy image

Facing a dearth of job openings in the pandemic economy, six LMU graduates decided that instead of seeing their youth as a weakness they would reframe it as their greatest asset.

Together they launched NinetyEight — an advertising agency founded on the premise that only members of Gen-Z know the best ways to reach Gen-Z.

With Gen-Zers holding an estimated $143 billion in spending power, according to a study by Barkley advertising agency, companies are eager to target this audience. However, traditional strategies such as big spending on television or magazine advertising won’t cut it. This increasingly tech-savvy and socially conscious generation is better reached through TikTok and social media influencers.

The NinetyEight team feels like they have the precise perspective and expertise to navigate these mediums and ensure Gen-Z ad campaigns pack a punch.

Of course, building client confidence in a team of twenty-two year old graduates with no prior experience holding a fulltime job let alone running a company, is no simple task.

“Not only are people skeptical about working for a small, new company, they’re skeptical with our youth as well,” said Co-Founder Gia Lee. “At the end of the day, it’s not about convincing them that we can do the job. It’s about getting them to realize they actually needed our youth and ‘Gen-Z’ness.”

Lee said they have no shortage of enthusiasm for their work.

“In all honesty, we didn’t have the ‘textbook’ or ‘traditional’ skills required to launch a company… but does anyone really?” said Lee. “What we did have was a vision, hunger, and entrepreneurial spirit that enabled us to take the leap and is what gets us going every day.”

So far it’s working. Since launching last June, NinetyEight has worked with numerous clients including Wanderlust Creamery, Delve Desserts, KAA Design, FoodieFoods and artworxLA.

One of their recent projects was for wealth advisory firm Hardy Capital Investments. The company knew that Gen-Z struggles with financial literacy and wanted to promote its financial planning services. NinetyEight helped establish an accessible and attractive social media presence and launch the company’s TikTok account.

“How many financial planning firms do you see actively targeting and speaking to the next generation? Hardy Capital understands that in order to gain the hearts of Gen-Zs once they’ve built their wealth, he has to start cultivating that relationship now,” said Lee.

The team also designed a TikToK account for Wanderlust Creamery and helped them understand how trends and challenges tie into TikTok strategy.

This ‘decoding’ work, where the team explains how online trends function, is part of their unique selling proposition. NinetyEight will explain the relevance of brand wokeness, how to correctly utilize memes, and what type of influencers companies should partner with.

“We are honest. As a generation that values authenticity, we reflect this in the work we do for our clients,” said Co-Founder Fran Magsalin. “We tell our clients exactly what Gen-Zs think, not just things that the clients want to hear.”

After establishing client trust, the team has found that most companies are clamoring for Gen-Z insights.

In the future the NinetyEight Team seeks to scale up the company while sticking to its core values of “realness” and “authenticity”. With two founders hailing from Southeast Asia they are already making moves to expand into the international market.