Friday, February 27, 2015

Profs without practitioners: An advertising education fail?

On two occasions, I applied for a "professor internship" with a large academic advertising organization. Both times, I was rejected.

I spoke with an executive at the organization and asked why I was not being considered. She informed me that I had too much prior work history; the program targeted PhD advertising professors who didn't have any corporate or agency experience.

I found that response terrifying. Does it reflect on who is teaching our students?

It's possible some of you may not agree, but I'd suggest that teaching advertising is not a theoretical endeavor. For example, there are all sorts of step-by-step textbook instructions for media sales. But until you've heard the click of a hangup, or missed the decision-maker because the gatekeeper ran interference, you won't truly understand.

Staying connected to the realities of our business is imperative. I have a heightened sense of awareness when it comes to what is actually unfolding in our industry. This is my sixth year at Appalachian State. I'm going up for tenure and all of that is good. But, it also means I'm six years distant from the day to day grind of agency life. It's hard to explain how if feels, what it means to be fear driven each and every day, cold calling your way to a new client or fighting to retain the client you currently have.

Enter Gayle Ireland and her research firm Voccii. I met Gayle at a Qualtrics (research software) conference a few months ago. We had a few discussions and then Gayle Skyped into our advanced advertising capstone class. Her ability to frame ideas and to relate to students was evident.

Last evening, Gayle came to campus and presented to our ASU advertising club. She helped us reinforce an important message - that agencies need to test and vet consumer perceptions before launching the big idea. Our students many times wish to race into creative, but Gayle let us know that many times, your best idea may be a fall-down disaster with your intended consumer audience.

Plan the work, then work the plan.

I am thankful to Gayle, and several other practitioners who have taken the time to invest in our students. As an educator, I can't do it alone. Practitioners matter and we need to embrace them and bring them into the student experience, whenever and however we can.

I did a Panopto lecture capture of Gayle's presentation. If you're interested, click through and enjoy:

Monday, February 2, 2015

Best teaching ever? Let your students tell the story.

I want to tell a short story. It's about how to motivate students, share the realities of life, and make them engage on their own terms. It happened last night at our Appalachian State University Advertising Club meeting. And, it came from an unexpected individual.

Meet Matt Linville. Matt graduated from our advertising program in 2010. He's somewhat of a rarity, in that he tracked through our business (rather than creative) emphasis in the major. I remembered Matt, had him in a Media & Society class and on one occasion had lunch with him regarding a summer internship at Beach Mountain Resort. I might have called him nondescript; truthfully, we didn't have a strong connection and we lost touch over time.

Then, enter LinkedIn. We made our connection and shared a few messages. Matt was moving on and up in his early career stages. I became more interested in the journey. What ever he had, what ever he was doing, it was working. I started to think about Matt's success and the current state of our students. Why not put them all in a room to talk? I asked Matt to attend an ad club meeting as a guest speaker. He accepted.

What transpired last night was rather magical. Matt presented in humble form, with a no-nonsense approach. No magic short cuts, no tricky resume advice. Matt just told the truth. Pick up the phone and call. Don't send resumes to HR email addresses and expect responses. Network. Meet people. Ask for the meeting.

Sometimes, students seem to be more fragile than they used to be. There is fear in engaging the job market. Modern paradigms support a perception you need a grad degree, or a creative "finishing school" program, to compete for a spot in a big agency.

Matt stated otherwise. He told us about how he had student loans and needed a job. He cold-called his way into seeing an exec at BBDO in Atlanta. He got an internship there. He made it happen, he got it done. Students asked questions, actually more questions than I have ever seen them posit at any other ad club event. Who was this student, one of them, who was going straight out of App State into a major agency role?

Matt's at a new start up agency in Charlotte now, focusing on search engine and ad copy projects for Dick's Sporting Goods. He's learning, he's growing, Matt has his sites set on becoming a manager for a marketing team. I might say more, but actually, Matt said it all. When you want the best teaching ever, let your student tell the story.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Appalachian State online advertising degree cracks top 10 in nation for value, quality

I'm proud to announce our distance education online advertising degree is gaining steam. We just broke the top 10 in a new ranking profile from the Affordable Colleges Foundation.
ACF recently analyzed data from hundreds of colleges with online communications programs, analyzing which schools offer the best combination of online program quality, affordability and student support.
Appalachian State University earned a ranking of #9 for Top Online Communications Degrees for 2015. Check out the report at the link below:
The ranking profile included variables that measured cost and quality through student/faculty ratio, graduation rates, and job placement for graduates. The study also applied Peer-Based Value, a proprietary metric that compares quality metrics of colleges with similar costs, and the costs of colleges with similar quality metrics. Schools that were ranked must be not-for-profit institutions.
We have been working hard to transition what was a seated, satellite program into a vibrant, 100% asynchronous experience. It's rewarding to see that the Affordable Colleges Foundation has noted the value and ROI that's available through Appalachian State.

Monday, January 5, 2015

"Git R Done" with Larry the Cable Guy fitness plan

I've been doing my morning runs while catching up on the new podcast series by comedian Pauly Shore (aka The Weasel):

There's a two-parter where Shore interviews Scott Thompson (aka Carrot Top) with co-host Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy). The double episode is a great ride and if you love the back stories on icon comedy stars, this is for you.

I consider podcasts learning opportunities. That's why I value them over music. So here's today's lesson. If you want to "Get 'er Done" and dump the pounds in 2015, here's what Larry the Cable Guy is engaging for his "weight dropping" fitness plan:

Five days per week

45 minute weights

300 repetitions jump rope then 100 hits on the punching bag (repeat this set 3 times)

30 minutes treadmill

30 minutes cardio glide machine

Sixth day treadmill and cardio glide only

Drink one gallon of water per day

Cut sugar and bread

There's a bunch more on Dan and how he rolls, as well as Scott and his current act in Vegas. Enjoy.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Break morning habits to supercharge your weight loss war

I really don't like New Year's resolutions. To me, it reminds all of us "we've been bad" and now we must correct for our transgressions and recover.

Let's try something different. Stop looking back - at what was - and motivate by looking forward. For example, I'm entered in the Umstead 100 mile run at the end of March, so I better get my hind end in gear to get ready.

The big piece in my book "Mind Over Diet" is about self-negotiation. You have to get past being told what to do, and instead develop your own plan based on reasoning and motivation through self study and reflection. For me, that's about stirring the pot and breaking down daily habits.

Think about how you start your day. Some habits may be good, or bad, but they do set your mind and body for the next 24 hours. A juxtaposition of events serve as a reminder that things are going to be different and will track in a different direction.

I'd suggest you unpack your own morning habits, but here's my outline for 2015:

1) For over 40 years, I drank black coffee. Then for some reason, in 2014 I got hooked on store brand, powdered coffee creamer. Look at the label and you'll see sugar and chemicals. That's an instant trigger point (see more about this in Mind Over Diet). I'm going to break that down and go back to strong, black, dark bean brew.

2) My mornings start at 5:30 am. I like a slow intro to the day, then to the gym at 7 am. Most of my 90 minute interlude is spent goofing on social media. It's fun, but it's a habit. I'm breaking that down into something more radical. Think I'll trip through the one year chronological bible; that means 3-4 chapters each morning. And to really twist it, I'm going to do this reading my practicing on my guitar. How's that for a wake up event each day? Once again, radical change that reminds me things are going to be different going forward.

3) Here's the one I haven't yet been able to harness. I want to stop using fake chemical sugar substitute in my tea. I love Yerba Matte with Dextrose, Maltodextrine and Sucralose stirred in. Sounds yummy, doesn't it? Research indicates fake sweeteners trigger our brains just like sugar, and they make also screw up our good gut bacteria. All logical reasons to stop, but I love my fake sugar addiction. Just saying, should do it but may hang onto this zero calorie spiff.

So there you have it. Start with the beginning of your day and rattle things up. Build from there. This isn't a perfect journey, it's a war. Pick your battles carefully.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Online education is a world of second chances

I'm working diligently to develop and constantly improve our online advertising communication degree at Appalachian State University.
Distance ed students aren't better or worse than seated students, but they are different. Many did not complete their 4-year degree at an earlier time and are now circling back for a second chance.
As educators, we have to do everything possible to create a success environment for these hard working individuals. It's important to build compassion into the process. Many of my online students are working night shifts, managing families, or recovering from issues or events that have residual consequences.
It's not an easy journey. I stay aware of that at all times. It's our job to present rigorous learning opportunity, but also to coach and encourage as needed.
To me, that's the essence of an online educator.

NASCAR fights are bad for sport

I finished watching the NASCAR race at Texas. The race was over and driver interviews were about to commence. But before we could get to the canned comments, a fight broke out.
This melee was a bit more aggressive than most. One driver confronted another over driving tactics. Then a third driver pushed on of those drivers into the other, which started a chain reaction fisticuffs. What was interesting is that first drivers, then crew members related to those two drivers, and then even individuals with unrelated sponsor ID's dropped a few hay-makers. Good grief, the female doing ESPN commentary almost got hit.
The driver who instigated the fight represents a charitable organization. He was sure to get his logo- embroidered cap on during the post fight interview. When a potential donor is making a gift decision, does hand to hand combat create a positive affect? The other driver reps a beer company. He was the non-aggressor who stated he was at the track to race, not fight. Passivity and a 12 pack? Maybe that's the better route.
I have some fresh survey data (N = 495) on NASCAR fans and it's evident fights and car wrecks hold a strong correlation. But among the sport, and its sponsors, I'd suggest that fights are playing to the current audience...and that audience is getting diminished by the season. One only has to check out the camera shots from this past weekend's event to note the shocking array of empty seats. Pretty much the entire back stretch, and a good portion of the turn four stands, were empty.
So if it's not working, how do you fix it? I don't think fights propagate the new audience desired. NASCAR's "Boys, have at it" mantra doesn't show well for the interests and motivators of future fans.
Sure, I know that fights on Sunday = TV ratings increase on Monday. But that's short term success. I'd like to spend time and learn more about millennial consumers and how to attract them to a man (and select women) and machines. We're no longer the mechanized society we used to be, as least as it relates to hands-on hot rods and the desire for speed.
Maybe a punch in the mouth isn't what's best. Maybe those empty stands aren't about the driver I saw on TV with a bloody lip. More analysis is needed to attract what has become a marginally engaged, low consumption "fan" who holds a peripheral interest in the sport.
I have a new psychological model for the low consumption NASCAR fan. Maybe my research, and that of other applied scholars, can find new messaging trends that resonate and help create a new attraction for the sport.
I have a bit of skin in the game. I was Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s PR rep for the Wrangler Brand in 1986 and 1987. My vision comes from a salient era and I'd like to see NASCAR sizzle like it did in the past. It can only get better and I'd like to help.