The “G-Word”

No, not G-string. Someone asked if that was the G-word I referred to…Sorry to disappoint but I’m talking about Generosity.

My professor tends to use this word liberally. Each time we hear the word “generosity” escape from her mouth, students shoot a smiling glance at each other and shake our heads thinking “Oh silly Deb, and her catch phrases…”

When I first told my non-advertising friends I was missing a week of school to go to New York, they were confused (and jealous). Each person wanted to know what I would do there. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure myself. As far as I knew, we would go to the One Show Creative Week student exhibit and visit various advertising agencies in between. I expected to tour agencies and sit through presentations. What actually happened surprised me.

Advertising has a reputation for being a cut-throat world filled with egotistical Don Drapers and hierarchies. Although most agencies still reside on Madison Ave, the days of being an asshole (their words, not mine mom!) are over.

I learned so many things while I was in New York. I have notebooks filled with quotes and insights. I could write a 10,000 word blog post on everything I soaked up. However, one of my biggest takeaways was that advertising isn’t as scary of a world as it appears.

Eager students hanging on every word

As a lowly student who just discovered the actual job description of a planner, or still doesn’t know the difference between an Art Director and a Designer, it’s easy to feel like a minnow in a shark pool. We hear stories of agencies receiving over 400 applications per week, and we cry ourselves to sleep  thinking about how we’ll forever remain living with our parents (or potentially a cardboard box if we’re lucky enough to land an internship that pays minimum wage). But speaking with people in the industry showed me that we can do it.

It won’t be easy. It’s going to be difficult, and at times we’ll question why we even bother in the first place. But we’re capable of huge things if we keep our passion alive. And people in the industry are there to help us along the way.

“You have all of the power. Don’t let it go unrealized” – Michael Lebowitz, Big Spaceship.

I was completely overwhelmed by the generosity of each person that we met while in New York. Every industry professional had incredible insight for us, and genuinely wanted to help us succeed. Initially, I expected short tours and presentations that ended with “alright, thanks for coming but we’ve gotta go back to work”. I was so impressed and overwhelmed by the kindness each person showed us. They took time out of their day to speak with us, and some even rearranged their schedules so that we could talk more. Almost all of them gave us their contact information and encouraged us to reach out to them at any time. It’s not often that you find people who are so willing to help you, even though you just met.

“Advertising is a chaotic job. Nothing has a logical projection. It’s managed chaos. But there’s no distinct, ordered process towards creativity” – Matt Macdonald, JWT

New York is a place that used to leave a bad taste in my mouth. I grew up in a small town in Oregon, and I am accustomed to the relaxed west-coast vibe. The first time I visited in New York, I came back emotionally and physically exhausted. I remember telling my parents that I hated New York and I would never live there because “everyone is on their own agenda”. It was too fast paced for me. Oh, how times change.

Both New York and Advertising still terrify me. There’s days when I wonder if I’ll survive the industry. However, meeting everyone in New York made me realize that there are far more good people in the world than bad people. We met some incredibly inspiring people who want to see us flourish, and that makes me feel like the real world isn’t as scary as it’s made out to be.

Someday, I hope to be on the other side of it, helping students feel the same way. In the end, we’re all just people. And where would we be if we didn’t help each other once in a while?

“Be smart, work your ass off, and help anyone who needs it” – Tom McDonnell, DDB

Thank you so much to everyone who met with us during the week, and especially Deb Morrison, Dave Koranda, and Harsha Gagadharbatla for leading the way. There’s no way I can ever express my gratitude for the incredible experience that I had. Thank you.

All Work and No Play Makes Kelsey A Dull Girl…Until Now!

You may have noticed that I’ve been missing in action for the past few weeks. And by “you” I’m referring to my parents — the only people that actually read this blog (thanks Mom and Dad). Against all advice from social media know-it-alls, my blog has been in hiatus since March.

Why? Because I’ve spent the past few weeks fine-tuning my portfolio, breaking all socially acceptable hygiene guidelines, and resisting the urge to poke my eyes out while I wait for video files to render. As I pour myself another cup of coffee at 4 a.m, I think to myself “this is my life” and then go back to slaving away with the other advertising students who brought sleeping bags to the computer labs.

Yet aside from the “woe is me” sagas I tend to dramatize, it will all be worth it soon. Tomorrow, I’m headed for the Big Apple to participate in Creative Week. 60 University of Oregon advertising kids and three faculty members will join me. Luckily for you, this means less cynical posts about insomnia, and more uplifting blog posts about my experience. So, you’ve got the glass half-full to look forward to!

Our incredible professors managed to get us three pages worth of itinerary, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m visiting DDB, Big Spaceship, McGarry Bowen, Strawberry Frog, JWT, Wieden+Kennedy, Jet Blue, and MediaVest to get a taste of agency culture. We’ll also participate in the Student Exhibit, unConference, and hopefully kick some arse in the ping pong tournament. I can’t express how blessed and thankful I am for this opportunity.

While I’m there, the other students and I will be documenting our experience via the UONYC Blog and also on Twitter. Be sure to follow the hashtag #UONYC12 for updates!

Until then, I’ll be scouring the subways, trying to find the Cash Cab, and eating questionable street hot dogs!

Check out that nerd…At least this New York trip I won’t have to wear a dorky outfit paired with a lanyard.

25. Deb’s Life Class

“Feelings are always purest and most glowing in the hour of farewell.” –Jean Paul Richter

It’s hard to believe that this is the end of my creative strategist class. I remember the first day I sat in those yellow lambourghini seats in the Jaqua center, nervous and excited about what was to come. Now, those same feelings linger in the pit of my stomach but for different reasons.

It’s not often in life that I feel utterly inspired. Deb’s class gave me that opportunity every single Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Before her class, I had never recognized the sheer talent of the peers that surround me. I had never cried in a lecture hall. I had never felt that I could do something that would contribute meaning to the world.

As one student pointed out, “I never knew that I signed up for a life class.”That’s exactly what it is: a life class. My entire life, I’ve been so accustomed to attending classes solely because it’s part of the next steps. You go to school, you get a degree, you get a job, you live a happy life.  That’s what is supposed to happen.

But I didn’t realize that sometimes it’s about more than just school. Sometimes the best lessons that you learn come from the inspiring people around you. We were so fortunate to have speakers who taught us unforgettable lessons.

As Deb said in her last lecture, “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75”

Never stop learning. Never stop living. 

I want to take the time to give a sincere thank you to everyone who was a part of the creative strategist experience with me. Thank you to Deb, for everything. Thank you to all of the incredible speakers who generously took the time out of their day to give us insight. It’s been an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

I am learning all the time.  The tombstone will be my diploma. –Eartha Kitt

Without further ado, here is the link to my portfolio: www.kelseywilkins.com

 

24. Finding Your Passion

As the year winds down to an end, I took some time to reflect on all of the lessons that I’ve learned throughout this term. I flipped through my notebook, and one of the things that struck me was the difference in my notes from class to class. Most of my notes seem to be the average copying of slides. However, in one particular class, all of the notes seem to be a frenzy of inspiration and engagement. You guessed it, it’s the notes from my creative strategist class.

To show you what I’m talking about, this is what my notes from Economics look like:

Bore-snorezville.

Now, here are my notes from Creative Strategist:

Kathy Hepinstall's Lecture

Tracy Wong's Lecture (Sorry for the profanity -- blame him!)

My notes from creative strategist clearly show a higher level of engagement. I can tell just by looking that I care about that subject the most. After studying my notes for a while, I think the difference between each school subject reflects the difference in my passion.

Advertising is something I am passionate about. It’s a huge aspect of my identity; it’s what makes me happy.

I love how it feels to complete a project I worked hard on. I love when it feels like I made meaningful work, and contributed something to the world. Collaborating ideas with others for a purpose is something that I truly enjoy. I love the friends that I’ve made through my advertising journey.

It’s hard sometimes. Often I feel like I’m not good enough, or that I’ll never make it. But it’s that passion that gets me through it.

I feel pretty fortunate in that for me, finding my passion was pretty easy. Strangely enough, advertising always has been my passion, and (hopefully) it always will be. I know some people struggle to figure out what it is that makes them tick. Some people get stuck in the rut of going through the motions of life because it’s easier or more secure. But if you never unleash your potential, you will never be fully satisfied.

Success should not be defined by the amount of money you make. It can only be defined by your happiness. Deep down, everyone has a passion that drives them — it’s what keeps us sane. Find something that makes you truly happy, and start living.

19. Company Culture

A few weeks ago, our class had the privilege of listening to Dave Allen, Director of Interactive Strategy at NORTH. I could write a novel of a blog post about how great Dave’s lecture was, but I’ll save it for another time because luckily I was able to snag a spot in his Digital Social Branding class, and I assume that many future blog posts will come from his wisdom.

After spending some time on NORTH’s website, there was one thing in particular that I really admired: they have a page dedicated to their company culture.

It seems simple. Most people would probably look over this page on the website and quickly move onto the “work” or “contact” tab. However, this “culture” tab is something that companies should look into.

As a prospective employee, company culture is the top priority on my list. What is the company like? What are their values? How do employees act? Like most employers and employees, I want to know if I would fit in at the company. Over the summer, I asked some industry professionals how to know what agency was right for me, and each told me to spend some time on a particular agency’s website to get a grasp of their company culture. You would be surprised to find how many places neglect this aspect.

How can I find out if I would fit in at a company if they do not make it easy for me to experience? There is only so much information that I can gather through their work or short biographies of the people who work there. A mission statement or “about” page only skims the surface. I want to know what each day is like at that agency — how they collaborate; how they live.

NORTH does a fabulous job of this. Instead of merely copying and pasting a statement, they provide beautiful aesthetics that give you a true sense of the agency. They have a video that shows various scenes of the office. Not only does their “people” page show the job titles, but it gives you a sense of what the person is like. They also have a section that features art projects that employees created.

We hear it all the time in advertising in relation to user experience: “make it easy for them“. NORTH does this. If other agencies want to become powerhouses of great talent and wonderful people, they should hop on the bandwagon.

North's Company Ideology

7. Why Do Business Schools Still Teach Us About Target Audiences?

I have never been hunting. Perhaps it’s because I have frail arms and hand tremors, and it would be a danger to society if I ever held a firearm. Perhaps it’s because hunting automatically reminds me of that traumatizing scene in My Dog Skip when some random hunters kill a deer and Frankie Muniz cries his eyes out (just like I did for the entire duration of that movie).

Whatever the case, the closest I’ve ever gotten to target practice is numerous hours of Duck Hunt from the years of 1995-1997 (my duck hunting career peaked early since my mom sold our Nintendo at a garage sale — something I may never forgive her for).

Now, I have nothing against the sport of hunting. I’m all for deer jerkey, taxidermy, and all that jazz. However, when it comes to marketing, I don’t think you should place a target on your audience.

The advertising game is changing. With the rise in social media, transparency is no longer a buzz word; it’s something that will permanently reside in future marketing books. Students will sit in lectures where they learn about the history of advertising and think “OMGZ what n00bs!” just like I do when I look at old business models. With billions of options, consumers hold the power. Companies that stay in their traditional ways will remain left in the dust.

Recently, Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen asked “why business schools still teach the 4P’s of marketing when three are dead“. According to the authors, “the digital revolution has rewritten the laws of marketing,” and I agree with this point. I want to take this one step further and ask, why do business schools still teach us about target audiences?

I personally believe that you should not  think of your audience as a “target,” and this is something that needs to change in the advertising industry. It’s time to start thinking of your audience as people. Not a demographic; not a generalization.

Don’t get me wrong — I understand the value of research and strategy. Both are key elements to successful advertising. However, I think that sometimes when we get into the realm of target audiences, we miss opportunities to reach out to people.

This isn’t to say that you should market to everyone, or that defining a group of consumers that you want to market to is wrong. In fact, defining your audience is a key aspect of successful advertising. What I mean is that it is crucial to gain insight on an individual level through the research process, instead of making assumptions based on a simple survey.

Good agencies know this. They take the time to truly engage with their consumers, and use feedback. But more marketers must recognize this need to connect with people.

In my opinion, “targeting” can put people into a box, and sometimes treat them as nothing more than a generalization. I consider myself a person with diverse interests and background – why should I be placed into a specific category? I am more than just one word descriptors that may apply to me based on my interest in one particular subject. I think of the people that I will advertise to, and this statement applies. If I don’t like being defined by just one aspect of my identity – why would they? I think the only way to truly define your audience is by taking the time to understand them on a personal level.

I really appreciate this campaign from Merckengage. They recognize that their audience is more than just a statistic. Instead of focusing on a target audience, they focus on individuals.

Fortunately, the University of Oregon advertising program seems to recognize this. My point is that other schools need to jump on the bandwagon. Shoot for a target audience, and you’ll never hit the bullseye.

*Edited November 10th

6. How to Stand Out In Advertising: An Interview with Maria Scileppi

One of the many, many things I love about my Creative Strategist class is that we have the ability to listen to some incredibly insightful professionals. I feel very fortunate that I get the opportunity to witness profound lectures, and even more thankful that these speakers are generous enough to go out of their way to help students.

A few weeks ago, our class heard Maria Scileppi talk about the secret to getting a job in advertising. For six years, Maria was an art director at Y&R, and she is now the Director of the Chicago Portfolio School. When she first moved to Chicago, she started a social experiment called People Scape, where she made a new friend every single day for a year. Currently, she is working on a data visualization project.

After her lecture, I was very inspired to write a blog post on what she had mentioned in her keynote. The industry can be very intimidating for us youngin’ folk (and that’s an understatement). Sometimes I feel like a terrified Bambi running amuck while the entire forrest is on fire, and I can’t find my mother (spoiler alert if you have never seen the movie…Sorry). As someone who did not initially know much about the industry, I found Maria’s presentation very informative and I wanted to follow up with her on the subject.

I had the extreme honor and pleasure of speaking with Maria over the phone about how students can stand out in the industry, and what steps they should take to become successful in advertising. At first, I planned to write a blog post summarizing our conversation. However, after speaking with her I felt that my mere words would not do her justice. Luckily, she let me record our conversation and so I decided to make our conversation into a “podcast” style blog post.

Here are some of my key takeaways from our conversation:

  • Be Yourself. Personality matters, and at the end of the day it’s all about connecting with people. You can only connect with people on a personal level, so never feel afraid to be yourself. For me, this is the hardest thing to fulfill. I struggle with this because I always learned that if I speak with a professional, I must metaphorically straighten up my tie (the metaphor being that I don’t wear ties, but I bet you caught onto that). Instead, I need to focus on just being myself. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but Maria is right — it is the only way that people will be able to connect with you.
  • Be Passionate. Geek out about something; your passion is what makes you interesting.
  • Practice the Art of Listening. You learn about yourself through others. Everyone has a story, and they want to share it. Don’t be afraid to talk to people; you never know what knowledge you may find.
  • Give them a point of entry. People look for a way to connect with you — make it easy. You can bond with people on a personal level by finding common ground.
  • Never Stop Creating. Personal projects are key to defining your individuality and uniqueness. Your projects can become the most important pieces in your portfolio. Find a project or problem to solve that you are passionate about because it can lead you to more opportunities.

As a slight disclaimer, please disregard my on-air awkwardness, lack of interviewing skills and radio knowledge…The sound quality isn’t the best since it was recorded from my robot phone that I don’t know how to work, and you can hear me feverishly typing notes in the background…But hey, practice makes perfect, right? Until then, here is some wonderfully intelligent advice from Maria!

Once again, I want to thank Maria for taking time to speak with me! Your advice and generosity is greatly appreciated!

5. Seven Billion

Normally, I spend hours perfecting my blog posts but I am so hyped up on inspiration and borderline restraining-order type obsession that I felt a sincere need to write about it.

It’s 12:14 AM. I’m slouched down in my bed listening to the pitter-patter of rain on my window, thinking about how fortunate I am that I get to lie in the safety and coziness of flannel sheets (Only $20 at Target in the seasonal section – that’s what I call a steal). Usually, this would be a dizzying moment where I am about to shut my eyes and fall asleep. However, my roommate just knocked on my door.

In a typical scenario, I would open one eye, extend my worst and most intimidating glare while I mumble “what do you want” in a mid-exorcism baritone. Yet, this time she really had a purpose. My roommate showed me one of the coolest viral videos I have ever seen, and I feel the need to share it on every possible outlet.

There are so many things that I absolutely love about this project that I can’t even put it into words, let alone a single blog post. Maybe I feel enthralled by this video because of my undying obsession with facts. Maybe it’s the catchy robotic jingle that is semi-reminiscent of my favorite childhood video game, The Sims. But most likely, its the fact that THIS is the kind of branding that can change the world. This is the type of campaign that all brands need to do. This is something that deserves recognition and praise.

National Geographic set clear philosophies and ideologies, and carried it out by a beautifully articulate video and year-long project discussing world population. They even created an app that explores the challenges and potential solutions for a growing world.

Another video within same project says,

“We don’t take up as much room as you think. Standing shoulder to shoulder, all seven billion of us would fill the city of Los Angeles. So, it’s not space we need — It’s balance.”

They artfully balance truth with inspiration. Each video ends with potential solutions and ideas that can make our planet a better place in the future. The key message in this entire project is that National Geographic recognizes that it is more than just the brand – it’s about changing the world. 

I love how thought provoking and inspirational this 7 billion project is. Already my mind is buzzing with ideas – it fascinates me how similar humans are but at the same time we are so individually unique. How can we work together and collaborate to make our world a better place? National Geographic is on the right track – what’s next?

3. Curiosity Killed the Cat, But it Praised the Advertiser

When I was little (yes, here we go again with a personal anecdote), I used to beg my dad to take me to the library. Each time my mom had a “girls night” party at our house, my dad and I would hop into the ’93 Infiniti and head to the wealth of knowledge known as the public library. At the time, I never realized that this was all just part of my dad’s ploy to make me a genius while simultaneously escaping the frenzy of screaming middle-aged menopause, but I digress…

I would leap onto the brick pathway, scaling the wall like a spider monkey (I was a weird child if you haven’t picked that up yet), and after spending hours in the children’s section, I would check out at least 30 picture books. Usually, 28 of those 30 picture books were Curious George.

Curious George was a book I could relate to; first because I thought I was a spider monkey, and second because like George, I myself was curious. Also, my dad would occasionally wear a yellow hat (not really, but that would have made this story better).

Fast forward, and today in creative strategist we talked about account planning.

I am not an account planner. While I may have an obsession with plans and I use three different agendas each with increasing detail to map out my life, I want to be a writer. But the important message here is that the job title doesn’t matter.

To be a good advertiser, you need to be curious.

I first thought about curiosity during my Intel internship. Ironically enough, it was because we sponsored a television show on the Discovery Channel called “Curiosity”. They sent an announcement around about how we were sponsoring this new program, and I looked into it. One of the commercials that plays during this show is an interview with Genevieve Bell, Director of Interaction & Experience Research at Intel Corporation.

In this spot, she gives some great insight on what it means to be curious:

“Curiosity is what you can make people think about, and what you can make possible for them. Curiosity is not just about observing things; it’s about being changed by them.”

Before I discovered the show, I had never thought about how those ideas could play into advertising. Genevieve puts it all into perspective: “you have to know why people love the things that they already have to invent the next generation of things that they’re going to want”. 

As WPP planning guru Jon Steel puts it,

“The key to success is understanding the basics of the human condition.”

It’s time to stop thinking about audiences and start thinking about individuals. If you are curious and truly engage with a consumer, then you will achieve unparalleled results. Take an interest in people, and they will reciprocate that interest.

So, how can you be curious? Be like George the monkey. Look at things from a childlike perspective. Ask yourself what makes people the way they are. Ask WHY. Collect things. Curate interesting.

It’s not always about the answer — sometimes you learn the most when you reflect on how you got there.

This was an installation by Renee Alvarado, Corey Haugen, Holly Schnackenberg, Kristen Mohror, and Emily Papp. Check them out - sheer talent.

2. Ode to the 90’s

It would have been much cooler if I wrote this blog post in 2010 for the whole “decade” effect but alas…I just thought of this blog post today.

This post will either make you feel really old (if you’re in that baby boomer generation – news flash: you ARE old! Just kidding, Mom and Dad) or very nostalgic (if you have fond memories of watching that incredible Nickelodeon line up of Rugrats, Doug, Salute your Shorts and Clarissa Explains it All while eating Captain Crunch in your footie pajamas). But hey, nostalgia is always fun!

As a proud member of the Spice Girls, Doc Martens, glitter eyeshadow era, today I reminisced on all of the things I used to love back in the 1990s. It should come as no surprise if you read my last post that one of the things I loved about the 1990s was advertising. I wasn’t lying when I said I used to memorize jingles as a child. While most kids my age were enjoying the great outdoors, I would sit in my living room surrounded by my larger than life beanie baby collection (I SERIOUSLY thought those would be worth a fortune someday…This is why I don’t buy stocks) and I would recite commercials. Out of adoration and pure love of the 1990s, here is my ode to the best advertising of the good ol’ days (or at least the commercials I remember most from my childhood).

1. Sears Air Conditioning

Ahh, the Sears air-conditioning commercial. Although most people would probably put this in the category of “worst commercial ever”, I have some very fond memories of sitting in the back seat of my suburban with my best friend Kara on our way to soccer practice as we each dramatically acted out this scene. I always got to be the sweaty woman who “CAN’T STAND ANOTHER DAY WITHOUT AIRCONDITIONING!”. How could you not love a commercial with lines like:

“Says tomorrow’s gonna be hotter.
HOTTER!?
Like yesterday.
Yesterday you said you’d call Sears!
I’ll call today!
No, you’ll call now!
I’ll call now!”

and

“So, what’s the paper say about tomorrow?
ANOTHER SCORCHER….
COOL!!!”

Now THAT is some quality copywriting*! Regardless of the cheesiness factor, I must say that I STILL to this day can recite those lines word for word. Successful advertising? You tell me.
(*sarcasm)

2. Budweiser – Wazzaaaap

Admit it, you answered your landline phone like this for the entire year of 1999.

3. Taco Bell – Yo Quiero Taco Bell

I wanted a chihuahua very badly after this commercial. Later, I met a chihuahua for the first time and it bit my hand. Long story short, I should have approached the chihuahua with tacos. (Sidenote: chihuahua may be one of the most fun words to say).

4. Budweiser – Frogs

I used to have a mug that would play the sounds of these frogs when you tilted it. I miss that mug…

5. Daisy Sour Cream – Dollop

This is the sour cream ad that I referred to in my earlier post. I used to drive my parents crazy by singing this repeatedly while I put sour cream on my baked potatoes. This commercial is also the only reason why I even know what a “dollop” is. (sidenote: dollop is also a very fun word to say).

Don’t worry folks – this post has some educational value. From a more scholarly aspect, the changes that happened in ten years (eleven years…but ten sounds better) fascinate me. When I look back on these commercials, I can’t believe that they were successful. Aside from the obvious production advancements since these commercials first aired, one thing that stands out most to me is the cultural implications.

The “wazzap” commercial started an entire phenomenon. You couldn’t walk five steps on the playground without someone screaming “WAZZZAAAAAAAAAAAP” in your face. The Taco Bell ad has some subtle racism and stereotype generalizations that probably would not be accepted today, but at the time it was a huge hit. Don’t get me started on the Daisy and Sears ads — apparently the 90s were a big blur of straight sappiness. However, even though they were lame, I still could sing you the jingle or recite my lines flawlessly.

For me, these advertisements make me wonder. How will I look at advertising in the next ten years? To an outsider who watches these commercials, it would appear that the 90s were a carefree time of corny sensationalism, Boy Bands, and light-up shoes. How will the next generation of advertising shape our culture?

For creative strategists, we need to think about this. Do we really want to look back and have nothing to show but jingles and weird catchphrases? Or do we want to do something meaningful to shape the world?