Wednesday, March 17, 2010

MY College Experience

I hear graduation bells. To be fair, I hear them in the middle of the night immediately before waking up in a cold sweat from a truly awful dream. In the dream, I am about to graduate from college with a diploma in Advertising, only to discover that everything I’ve learned is nonsense, and real life is laughing at me. I search and search for jobs, but at every turn I am foiled like some tawdry super villain in a second rate comic strip. You don’t have the necessary skills, the hero says as he denies me yet another job.

In reality, I am six weeks away from entering a frighteningly competitive job market, especially as an advertising specialist. Did college provide me with the skills necessary to succeed at an advertising agency? Quite frankly, the answer is no. Now that’s not to say I didn’t receive some useful training; I wrote marketing plans, and learned the very basics of Adobe Suite. Through luck and a little skill, I was able to compete in an extracurricular marketing competition, and won the right to develop my plan for an actual client.

You may have noticed that while the word marketing is mentioned numerous times when describing the competencies in which I’ve become proficient, the word advertising is not. While the two bear some commonalities, they are essentially different sides of the same coin. I now know that Marketers hire advertisers to do creative work aimed at a defined target. As an advertising student, logic would dictate that the vast majority of my studies should have been based around the creative aspects of the medium.

Of course it is important to understand the nature of a marketing plan. They are the means of communication between the two disciplines; without a proper plan, advertising is impossible. But to become a great advertiser, you need to be armed with more than understanding of demographics, psychographics and statistics. Advertising, I’ve since learned, is about feel. It’s about taking arcane numbers and translating them into art, be it written, visual or audible. It’s about the “big idea” and the creative development process.

To be hired in the creative department of an ad agency, you need to have a portfolio. And not a portfolio of marketing research reports or make-believe Pepsi Cola campaigns. Art directors want to see well written ad copy, scripts and professional print ads. They want proof that you can storyboard a campaign, or write a boring manual with both skill and grace. Of the six semesters in my program, one was committed to copywriting and two were devoted to art design. That means 3 semesters were based around topics that do not build my portfolio. Now I’m not sure how much time graphic design students spend learning design principles and practices, but I feel confident that it is more than 50%.

Perhaps the fault lies more in the nature of the beast. Maybe creativity and the structure of art design are too ethereal of topics to actually “teach”. Some believe that when it comes to creative, you either have it or you don’t, that simple. It’s possible that 4 semesters of storyboarding, writing taglines, designing logos, rebranding companies and creating flyers in Adobe Suite would be too boring for many students. In fact I’m sure I’d find the repetition dry and the advancement slow. But at least I’d have a nice, thick portfolio to take to job interviews once the bells have rung in 6 weeks.

ou leaO O v r 2 u can about them so that you can build a closer relationship, using the things you learn to create the commonalities behind successful partnerships.

Quite simply, knowledge is power. The more you know about those around you, the better you are able to control how they perceive you.

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