Youth marketing
min read

Calculated risks & creativity: in conversation with Patrick Holly

Published on
February 23, 2024
Last updated
April 2, 2024

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In less than a month, we return to New York City, for the 13th evolution of Youth Marketing Strategy (YMS) – the jam-packed, go-to event for any brand looking to reach Gen Z.

With an enviable line-up of speakers from brands like Uber, YouTube, Pinterest, Spotify and Amazon, and incredible sessions full of unmissable content, this year is set to be the biggest yet.

Ahead of the event, we caught up with Patrick Holly, VP of Creative at Upwork, who will be delivering an exclusive session on the eCommerce track.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Upwork…

“I serve as Upwork’s VP of Creative, where I oversee Workshop. Workshop is Upwork’s creative division, and, in my role, I lead a team of writers, art directors, designers, strategists, project managers, and producers who are changing the way the world thinks about work.”

You’ve worked with some blockbuster brands like Harley Davidson, Uber and Apple - what’s the secret to success when it comes to creativity?

“Great work comes from a combination of three things: having a brand and mission worth talking about, brand leadership who is looking to take some calculated risk, and a creative team who can capitalize on all of this. All great brands are built on that foundation.”

What trends are you seeing when it comes to Gen Z and the world of work right now?

“While businesses struggle to grapple with the new world of hybrid work, Gen Z is embracing it. For example, 9 out of ten Gen Zers see remote work as a key recruiting lever to attract talent. They know that their best work isn't defined by a 9-to-5 schedule, and they're open to putting passion over paychecks if it means making a positive impact on the world.

Within that, they’re extremely comfortable with doing and tapping into freelance work, which impacts how they think about career pathing; an Upwork study found that 65% of Gen Zers plan to use more freelancers over the next five years than they do today.

We’re moving away from a model where folks work at the same Fortune 500 for decades – and Gen Z is helping lead that shift.”

Do you see young people driving the biggest change to how society views work?

“Gen Zers are playing a significant role in reshaping how society views work. The rise of freelancing is largely fueled by preferences of the younger generations. They value flexibility, autonomy, and diverse experiences in their careers – and companies are adapting to match that demand.

Upwork’s obviously always been an advocate for empowering freelancers, but now it seems like industries across the board have started to catch up.

In terms of the debate around hybrid work models, right now, we’re seeing the pendulum swing back a bit toward in-person office mandates. In the long-term though, I think we’ll see a bigger premium on remote work options, project variety, and flexible work-life balance as more millennials and Gen Zers step into positions of management.”

How is Upwork supporting and enabling Gen Zs to be successful freelancers?

“We want to create an environment where Gen Zers can build effective, fulfilling careers on their own terms. Our platform is designed to empower people to find the kinds of work opportunities that best fit their skill sets and desires, whether that’s a full-time model – something we launched last year – or freelance gigs. For folks erring more on the side of freelance, we provide resources and programs to help them thrive in the gig economy.”

You’ll be joining our experiential-focused panel at YMS. What can you share about experiential’s place within a wider marketing strategy to reach new and younger audiences?

“Experiential marketing plays a pivotal role in reaching new and younger audiences. Despite their preference toward hybrid and remote work, Gen Zers really value authentic in-person connection in the right environments, especially after spending their formative years on Zoom screens at the height of the pandemic.

Brands have an opportunity to create memorable experiences for young audiences that helps them get ahead of the competition by making memories, building long-term loyalty and affinity.”

Quick fire round...

Biggest Gen Z myth?

"That they’re lazy!"

What do you most admire about Gen Z?

"Their willingness to break the molds that don’t work anymore."

What’s your favorite app at the moment?

"Rain Rain: honestly, there are so many apps out there that take your attention, sometimes you just need a little calming rain sound to help you focus on things that aren’t a screen."

What are you most looking forward to at YMS?

"Learning new insights around Gen Z and sharing those that I’ve gleaned over the past couple of years."

What should we have asked you that we didn’t?

"My favorite ice cream: Cookie Dough!"

Ready to supercharge your marketing strategy? Snap up got your YMS NYC ticket right here.

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