College grads launch LA’s first-ever Gen-Z advertising agency – Santa Monica Daily Press
Faced with 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 principle that only Gen-Zers know the best ways to reach Gen-Z.
With Gen-Zers holding an estimated $143 billion in spending power, according to research by ad agency Barkley, companies are eager to target this audience. However, traditional strategies like big TV spending or magazine advertising won’t be enough. This increasingly tech-savvy and socially conscious generation is best reached by TikTok and social media influencers.
The NinetyEight team feels they have the precise perspective and expertise to navigate these mediums and ensure Gen-Z ad campaigns pack a punch.
Of course, gaining the trust of clients in a team of twenty-two-year-old graduates with no prior experience in a full-time job let alone running a business is no easy task.
“Not only are people skeptical of working for a small new company, but they’re also skeptical of our young people,” 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 making them understand that they really need our youth and “Gen-Z”.
Lee said they had no lack of enthusiasm for their work.
“In all honesty, we didn’t have the ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ skills needed to start a business…but does anyone really have them?” said Lee. “What we had was a vision, a hunger and an entrepreneurial spirit that allowed us to take the leap and that’s what drives us every day.”
So far it works. Since launching last June, NinetyEight has worked with numerous clients including Wanderlust Creamery, Delve Desserts, KAA Design, FoodieFoods and artworxLA.
One of their recent ventures involved wealth management advisory firm Hardy Capital Investments. The company knew Gen-Z struggled with financial literacy and wanted to promote its financial planning services. NinetyEight helped establish an accessible and engaging social media presence and launch the company’s TikTok account.
“How many financial planning companies do you see actively targeting and talking to the next generation? Hardy Capital understands that to win the hearts of Gen-Z once they’ve built their wealth, they have to start cultivating that relationship now” , said Lee.
The team also built a TikToK account for Wanderlust Creamery and helped them understand how trends and challenges relate to TikTok strategy.
This “breakthrough” work, where the team explains how online trends work, is part of their unique selling proposition. NinetyEight will explain the relevance of brand awakening, how to properly use memes, and what type of influencers companies should partner with.
“We are honest. As a generation that values authenticity, we reflect that in the work we do for our clients,” said co-founder Fran Magsalin. “We tell our customers exactly what Gen-Z people think, not just the things customers want to hear.”
After establishing customer trust, the team found that most companies are asking for Gen-Z information.
Going forward, the NinetyEight team seeks to scale the business while upholding its core values of ‘reality’ and ‘authenticity’. With two founders from Southeast Asia, they are already taking steps to expand into the international market.