Explore Rochester celebrates 365 days of creativity building community    

Earlier this week, advertising’s elite met in Miami with a somewhat bleak outlook for the industry’s future. Agency heads lamented a migration of talent to competing fields as well as a shortage of diversity at all levels — especially among creative leadership.


In Rochester, New York, the Millennials and creative class are rising. According to a recent study, the Flower City is the number one U.S. metro with a population of more than one million attracting America’s Millennial generation between 2009-2014. Despite trends of growth, young people aren’t necessarily gravitating toward traditional paths in advertising, a field long known for its creative culture. 

One prime example of this shift is Explore Rochester, a community of sorts that began in 2015 as a way to bridge the gap between social media and real-life interactions. The group hosts a series of in-person events called #ROCSTAMEET. These forums bring together young people from all walks of Rochester to explore the city and share experience through photography and conversation. Favorite spots include mostly urban finds such as Lower Falls and lakefront sites at Lake Ontario. 

For Steve Carter, co-founder, Explore Rochester, the difference between a traditional agency setting and emerging creative outlets like Explore Rochester are the ability to realize tangible value. 

“For me, [creating value] is about the ability to affect people in a significant way. It’s bringing people together in a room like this,” said Carter as he stood in an artists’ loft space filled with about 100 people — all young people. “I see projects like Explore Rochester as an open notebook; it’s not constrained by a job description or title. How much effort I put in directly equates to what I create.” 

Mr. Carter’s attitude aligns with past research on his generation. In 2011, Euro RSCG, a Havas agency, conducted a worldwide study on the Millennial generation. The report concluded Millenials desire ways to connect and make real and lasting change in their world. Despite what they view as significant challenges ahead, 84 percent view this charge as their duty and 82 percent believe they possess the tools to achieve results. Lastly, they desire identities to serve as a “compass” — an idea to believe in; a commitment “…that will reflect positively on them — over the long term.” 

Mr. Carter is one example of local Millennials applying such tools — Instagram and Facebook — toward a desire to foster community. And based on a turnout of several hundred Millennials during one evening — and hundreds more during their #ROCSTAMEETs, Explore Rochester is onto something. Brands and traditional creative agencies should take note. 


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