What 5 Crazy Months Have Taught Me About Life and Advertising

The VCU Brandcenter is the most hectic, awe-inspiring, sometimes depressing but more often exhilarating experience I’ve ever had – and while not an excuse, the biggest reason you haven’t heard from me in quite some time.

As the holidays approach and we all start to wind down, I thought I’d share my 10 most salient learnings (a few of which come directly from the sage wisdom of professors and alumni) from the last 5 months:

  1. Have a backbone. Believe in yourself and your work. Take criticism when it’s warranted and constructive.
  2. As much as it might feel like it, you’re not yet a junior. This is the time to screw up and not “get on the list.”
  3. Good work doesn’t have to be on brief to be on strategy; and great work is a rarity. When you see it, you’ll know it. Appreciate it, and find a way to work with those who create it.
  4. Team meetings shouldn’t last 12 hours. They probably shouldn’t even last 3. If they do, you’re doing something wrong.
  5. Working in teams is (nearly) as much about luck as it is cooperation. But you’re not always going to luck out in the real world, so now is the time to figure it out.
  6. Keep some of your cards hidden; not everyone deserves or appreciates your help. But at the same time, find those people that are deserving; help them, and build fiercely loyal relationships.
  7. No one really understands what a strategist is or what a creative technologist should do; and that’s ok – define that role for yourself.
  8. Be a sponge. Everything is a learning opportunity. Be curious. Ask naive questions. Connect the dots. Have fun.
  9. Hard work is a waste of time if your idea sucks.
  10. Believe in magic.

10 ½. If you’re going to break your elbow, do it while you’re young and when you’re soon to have a break. At least then you’ll have time to update your blog ;).



CS 2014-15


Quoted: A Lesson In Brevity

Consider this: The Lord’s Prayer contains 56 words; the Gettysburg Address, 266; the Ten Commandments, 297; the Declaration of Independence, 300; and a recent U.S. government order setting the price of cabbage, 26,911

Positioning: A Battle For Your Mind

Don’t be the cabbage law, keep it brief.

I know I’ve neglected this guy over the summer and since I started at the Brandcenter, but I promise to be back soon. This blog tends to keep me sane, so you can imagine how crazy the last few months have been. I’ll have Brandcenter tidbits and wisdom to share shortly, and be sure to keep an eye out for my thoughts on this year’s Advertising Week in New York!

Advertising Week: The Evolution of Storytelling, One Tweet at a Time

Texting is killing language. Twitter is killing journalism. Technology is killing the way we socialize (OK, maybe this one’s a little true). Too often, people lament these changes rather than recognizing the opportunities that come with them.

For Ted-talker John McWhorter, such changes don’t represent death, but rather, new life. Texting, specifically, with its baggy structure and lack of concern with rules, shouldn’t be thought of as a ‘decline’, but rather, as a kind of emerging complexity through which we are constantly creating new linguistic markers (like the transitional word “slash” or “lol” as a mere marker of empathy).

We’re creating entire new constructions, but still, we think something is “wrong.” And this is nothing new.

What does this have to do with Twitter? And what does it mean for brands?
Read more after the jump to Advertising Week!

California, Here I Come

Tomorrow I embark upon a new adventure. I’m moving to San Francisco. To work as a strategy intern at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners. And live with two other interns. On a boat.

Is this real life?!

It is. And this is how I feel:

Luckily for me, I don’t just watch Game of Thrones; I’m in the process of finishing up A Dance With Dragons, and I’m pretty confident in Lord Snow’s character progression.

I asked the junior strategist who I’ll be working under (and who also attended the Brandcenter – as I’ll do in August) for a bit of advice. What he told me was incredibly valuable:

My advice at this point would be to be a sponge. Everything from now until even after you finish with the Brandcenter is a learning opportunity. Be curious. Ask naive questions. Connect the dots. Have fun.

Up to this point, I’ve tried my best to learn as much as I can. I’ve taken extra classes, I’ve read too many books to count, I’ve asked questions. But it’s just the beginning.

I’ve never had an advertising internship before, mostly just sports (unless you count blogging for AWSC), which either makes me terribly unqualified or usefully unique.

Either way, I’m the ultimate sponge. And I’m so ready to soak up more than just the California sunshine (even though I’m pretty excited about that, too).

I’ll be sure to keep my blog up to date with all of my adventures, academic and otherwise.
But for now, here we go!


Advertising Week: Stress & Music

What are your plans for after graduation? That grad school application is due in January, better get crackin’! Group projects? Sure, four of those in a week shouldn’t be a big deal. Have you started writing your thesis? Oh, you’re still researching? That’s unfortunate. Any interviews lined up? 

The list goes on.

Luckily for you, I developed a foolproof way to beat December’s doldrums and I’ve decided to share my secret.

Because January brings with it a whole new set of challenges.

The Solo Dance Party 

Click through to read the rest of my post on stress and music: the solo dance party!

I Get By With A Little Help From…The Web

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m thankful for so much — especially this year. But I thought I’d take this time to talk about how amazing the internet is, and how helpful the advertising community has been.

A week or two ago, I posted a discussion on a LinkedIn group about entry-level strategy & planning positions. Not expecting much, I was amazed at the number of responses I received —both from other aspiring planners and established industry execs.

Sumit Roy, founder of UnivBrands and formerly of Ogilvy & Mather, volunteered to help seven of us “grow our own brands” in an effort to better prepare us to start a career in planning. Remarkable on its own, its made even more so by the fact that this is truly a global group.

We’re from the States, Sydney via London, London via Paris, Milan, and India! And we video chat at the same time. Just think about that — the number of time zones it entails — amazing.

I’m already learning a great deal about how to present my own brand to agencies, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

Not to mention, it’s great to have a group of likeminded “newbies” to bounce ideas, share information, and really, just grow with! It will be great to see where we all end up in the future…and I can tell you now: look out world!

Though it launched in April 2011, I just discovered this platform and it’s awesome. A self-proclaimed “global marketplace for classes [where you can] learn real-world skills from anyone, anywhere.” Not only is it a great educational tool, but it’s great for networking too.

In the next three weeks I’ll be taking mini-classes on graphic design, social media, building an audience, and storytelling. And they’re not taught by just any old schmuck: I’ll be learning from Julian Cole and Amber Horsburgh, as well as Noah Rosenberg, Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Narratively.

Before the classes have even begun, I’ve been able to connect with people from all over. I’ve even received some great feedback and advice from Julian Cole (Digital Strategy Director, BBH) about my next topic.

I’m on a learning kick as of late (clearly) — and one of my tasks is to teach myself how to code. At least the very-basics. Codecademy, as its founder told CNN, isn’t just a platform for getting coding lessons — it’s a way to stay relevant in a changing world.

While you may not agree that all students should learn coding alongside math and reading, I’m certain you’ll agree that its a useful skill to understand — even if you don’t practice in action.

I’m well on my way, and hope to be able to code my own little project to add to my portfolio in the future. I’ll keep you updated!

Several months ago, I couldn’t have told you I’d be a blogger. But now I realize doing this has been such a blessing. It’s made me a voracious reader and learner, it’s allowed me to build connections, and it’s really enhanced my confidence — both in my portfolio and in general. Not to mention, it’s led to the greatest opportunity, as I mentioned before: blogging for the Advertising Week Social Club as a student contributor!

The internet is awesome. And if you use it correctly, there are people out there who are so willing to help you learn and grow as a person and a professional.

So I’m thankful for you today, Internet: you rock.

I know, I’m on a Beatles kick. But that’s never a bad thing.

How #Twitter Cancelled the NYC Marathon

It might sound ridiculous; but at the heart of it, it’s true.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation that so severely hit New Jersey and New York, Mayor Bloomberg made the, albeit tentative, decision that the 2012 ING New York City Marathon would go on. He, along with New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg, issued a joint statement that held that the marathon would not take away significant manpower from the recovery process and acknowledged the event as “a special day for New Yorkers as a symbol of the vitality and resiliency of this city.”

True as that might be – the race has been held annually since 1970, even in 2001 just two months after 9/11 – it was the opinion of the majority, at least of those who voice their opinions publicly, that holding the marathon, just days after what can only be described as a disaster, would be a travesty.

The outcry was instant, and it was loud. Many called for runners to turn around, walk away, and aid in the recovery process when the starting gun fired. Others rightfully, but perhaps less dramatically, questioned how the government could justify sacrificing any amount of manpower when residents of Staten Island were facing life or death situations, when all of Manhattan was struggling to get back on its feet, when there was a soon-to-be gas shortage and still millions without power.

In this day and age, to ignore all of that is a lofty task. Tweets from “average Americans” and members of the media alike make their way into the mainstream, #topics go viral in a matter of minutes, and the chorus swells louder than it could ever have before. Mayor Bloomberg had to acknowledge the majority, admit that his decision just might have been a rush to judgment, and ultimately do the right thing by postponing the marathon.

Simply put, it’s just about impossible to justify holding a major, major event — essentially, the same as a parade — just 2.7 miles away from this:

I’m sorry Sandy messed up your training schedule, marathoners, but I’m pretty sure the manpower can be put to better use.