30 June 2011

AAF AdCamp teaches about Advertising -- and Diversity

Last week we hosted a group of high school students participating in the AAF AdCamp program. Part of their two-week program entails visiting large ad agencies in Chicago. (Contrary to reports in the Pretend Trade Press, we have several such companies here.)

My role was to give them an overview of the agency, but inevitably the session turned into an overview of the agency business today. It was a bright group and they asked a lot of questions. Some of these questions were requests for career advice.

The majority of the questions, though, sought insight into what happens inside of an agency. “You talked about collaboration – what are some of the best ways to collaborate?” “What is the difference between a campaign and a creative idea?” “Are you allowed to handle two clients that sell the same kind of product?” “How many projects does a team handle at one time?”

One entrepreneurial soul asked, “I’m starting a t-shirt design company -- what's your advice on how to properly market to consumers and classmates?”

Discussing collaboration, one girl asked, “How do you get noticed as an individual if everyone is working together as a group?”

So what advice did I give them?

Regular readers won’t be surprised to know that students heard, among other points, two main pieces of advice. One is to be a good generalist. The other is to pay attention to channel-planning as well as creative.

The group was diverse, which made me happy. I pointed out to them that the agency business needs to be much more diverse, not only because it’s important to society, but because diversity affects the work we do. If you appreciate the diversity of the people around you, your mind will be open to new creative possibilities. That’s critical in a business where change is constant, and in a society whose motto is E pluribus unum.


  1. steve

    like the thinking, embracing diversity of composition leads to diversity of ideas.

    6 diverse individuals with very different personal experiences and worldviews will almost always deliver far greater ideas faster than a group of 6 like-minded individual with very similar experiences and worldviews.

    keep pushing the boundaries.

  2. Steve,

    Great post as usual! I think it is great progress to see increasing diversity in not only ad agencies, but in other journalistic fields. I once debated how crucial it is to have diversity in newsrooms, in order to report fair and balanced news.

    In my current agency, we haven't seemed to fully complete the spectrum of diversity I find advantageous. I can certainly see the positives of honing in on interoffice diversity to "open creative possibilities."

    The consumer isn't paying attention to the mundane. The consumer is looking for a distinct personal advantage to something that remotely interests them. It is our job to push creative boundaries. The increase in agency diversity allows us to challenge, compare and inspire better creative.

    Glad to see that you are inspiring youth to enter this fascinating business!