Georgetown student Ava McDonald (C’24) has been named to the 2020 Ad Age 40 Under 40 for her role as founder and CEO of Gen Z marketing company Zfluence. The Ad Age 40 under 40 honors individuals who have advanced a business or brand at an advertiser, agency, media, tech or marketing company within the last 12 months.
Zfluence is the first and only digital solution that connects companies directly with leading members of Gen Z who love their products and want to promote them authentically to their friends on social media. For $250 a month, brands can reach millions of Gen Z consumers through what are called Zfluencers. Unlike other marketing companies that operate on a “pay-to-say” basis, companies do not pay cash directly to Zfluencers. Instead, Zfluencers are rewarded with products to serve as a marker of authenticity for the company.
McDonald, now only 19 years old, founded the company in 2019 while in high school. Struck by inauthentic social media posts with cut-and-paste captions from celebrities, she came up with the idea for a platform hosting authentic influences.
“I launched Zfluence for two key reasons: I saw an opportunity to create a better, more authentic, and more ethical way for brands to use social media to reach and influence Gen Z consumers and I wanted to empower our generation to take a more active and positive role in the $15 billion social media economy,” said McDonald.
Now, over a year later, McDonald is the youngest member of the 2020 Ad Age 40 Under 40 and the only member of Gen Z on the list.
“It’s a huge honor to be named to Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 list, not just because I’m in the company of so many great marketers from across the globe, but because I’m the only member of Gen Z on the list, which proves that there’s no age requirement when it comes to innovating and making a difference in the world,” she said.
McDonald is a passionate proponent of teenage entrepreneurship, encouraging those in high school or college to follow their dreams and pursue their entrepreneurial passions.
“Never let anyone tell you that you’re too young or have too much on your plate with school to start a business. Those things may well be true, but they don’t have to be defining hurdles. In fact, I always tell young aspiring entrepreneurs that what matters most isn’t their age, it’s the value they can provide to their customers,” McDonald added.
Since founding Zfluence, TEDx invited McDonald to speak at an event in Austin about teen entrepreneurship, Forbes has written an article on her and the company, and over 1,800 Zfluencers have been on the platform.
“Gen Z is a powerful demographic group that just about every major marketer is trying to attract in some way, shape, or form right now, and no one knows that market better than we do. This creates so many opportunities for those in our generation to innovate in business,” she said.