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:

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