Natalie Kim told us that strategists are like swiss army knives. They need to have all the right tools so that their teams are prepared to create amazing work. After listening to Natalie speak and knowing a bit about her background and current work, I completely believe her. She seems to be the personification of a swiss army knife and she always has resources to offer students seeking help and advice. Strategists need to be good with people in order to successfully work with team members, provide insightful information and wrap it up in a way that is easy to understand and helps rather than confuses. Everybody needs to have a little bit of strategist in them, but for the people pursuing it as a career we have to remember it’s not just about regurgitating information.
Say Yes and No
When you first enter an agency, you don’t want to let anybody down or make them think that you don’t deserve the job. Erika Bridges told us that it is important that you say yes a lot in the beginning, but also know when to say no. You will come to a point where you will have too much on your plate and your life will be completely engulfed with work-related issues. This isn’t bad, but we all know that our best work and ideas usually happen outside of work spaces. Leslie Ziegler shadowed this sentiment, telling us how important it is to make time for ourselves outside of the office. Say yes to the important stuff, but know when to say no and go to the concert or movie that you have been dying to see. These outside of work events inspire and invigorate us in ways that are more helpful than hindering, and there is no shame in taking care of yourself before you take care of the needs of your team. Just make sure to balance it.
Be a Storyteller
At the end of the day, all we are doing is telling stories. It seems so simple but that is what it all comes down to. Good ads make people feel something, and usually you don’t feel anything by getting yelled at about how great a product is or by reading customer testimonials. We want to relate to something and we do so with story. It is as old as time itself and now we are able to use new mediums to tell stories, some may be more appropriate than others depending on what we are trying to convey. Stories don’t have to be confusing or long or even very in depth, as long as they have a logical flow and make the audience relate with the content. There are great ways of telling stories in six words, so storytelling isn’t just reserved for long novels.
Garbage Disposal Rule
Leslie Ziegler dropped this on our class and I absolutely love it. Clean out the gross garbage disposal, because no work is beneath you. Be willing to solve the grossest or “dumbest” problems because it shows that you have drive and are willing to work. Be willing to do simple tasks that show other people around you that you care, even if it’s making another pot of coffee. These small gestures can make your work life much more enjoyable, and people will know you as a hard worker even outside of whatever company projects you may be doing. There is something to be learned in all types of work, and just because it doesn’t sound the most interesting on paper, doesn’t mean it won't help further your career or personal goals. The random jobs you hold just add more to your success and intelligence and make you more interesting and relatable.
Don't Sit Still
Stagnation is your worst enemy in life, no matter what you are doing. As soon as you stop, you will die. Movement helps our minds and our bodies, it also makes our work better. As soon as we stop learning and creating life will be pretty meaningless. Know that as soon as you stop improving, or your voice isn’t being heard by those around you, it is time to move on. There is no point in staying in a place that doesn’t allow you to grow or get better. Don’t be afraid of it, it will be scary but it will bring you happiness and career fulfilment in the long run. Working on a passion project or becoming more involved in the community you live in can help with the stagnation of the mind, or "writers block." Everything you create doesn't always need to be for work, and the activities we do and are passionate about make you a more interesting and interested person.
Look for Medium
After completing the worksheet about what agency would best suit me, I definitely feel as if a medium sized one would be the best option. I don’t want the constant attention that a very small agency would provide but I also don’t want to be lost among hundreds or thousands of people that are a part of bigger agencies. I feel like Goldilocks, everything has to be just right. I want to be able to have some sort of guidance along with big name clients but I don’t want the longer hours of a small agency or less accountability from a bigger agency. Some places I found that piqued my interest were blast radius, a tech focused agency working to build digital profiles of their clients, and 50K an agency that aims for “integrated strategic brand communications.” Also I can’t help but want to fall through the cracks at Wieden and Kennedy at least once, just to experience something that so many people dream about when they enter the advertising profession.
Know What a Win Looks Like
Erika Bridges and Saeid Vahidi from 72 and Sunny gave the advice to know what a win looks like. Knowing what works and what doesn't is important to be able to hold yourself accountable for doing great work. Whether you know what a win looks like from your own experience, or from an acquaintance's it will help you to constantly pursue greatness. Having a baseline expectation of what you are wanting to accomplish helps direct research and can also help if you are feeling lost. I know there is a lot of advice to never look back on old work and to always be looking to the future or the present. But sometimes when I am feeling lost, it really does make a difference to look back on my successes to prove to myself that I am capable of doing great things. That is why it is important to know what a win looks like, it ensures that you can continue making great work and that you know what great work looks like.
I'm an emotional person. It is hard for me to not let my emotions get the best of me whether it be crying because my roommates didn't do the dishes, or spilling coffee on myself. My dad always would get irritated with me for crying when someone would criticize me or offer new advice. Leslie Ziegler and Alex Morrison echoed my dad's early advice which is to not cry. Or better, don't cry in front of everyone. Receiving criticism is the best thing you can get because it allows you to learn from your mistakes and to make changes. If everything is perfect all the time, you will never learn how to create something better. Letting your emotions show isn't necessarily bad, but just know when and where to do so. As Leslie put it: "Don't let criticism destroy you," and this is something that I need to remember because it is so easy to feel personally attacked when someone could just be offering you guidance.
Everyone knows the benefits of traveling and getting to experience something other than your daily life. Whenever I think about traveling, I always return to the thought that it has to be in a different country for it to really be enriching. People don't usually tell you how important it is to explore your own city, state and country. To see how other people live in your own backyard can offer great insight into how other people think and live and how it may be different from you. Going abroad has become glamorized and normalized, and not many people like to brag about their trip to North Dakota or Eastern Oregon. But going and visiting these places shows how different parts of the country experience day to day life and this can teach us about how to better market to them, or at least come to terms with opinions other than our own. This is important to do because as advertisers we are trying to speak to people of all backgrounds, and going and experiencing different lives and cultures helps us to do that.
Confidence is Key
It's easy to get caught up and worry about what other people think you should be doing instead of actually doing it. Natalie Kim advised to do what you think is right until someone tells you otherwise. Having an actual job is a lot different than attending school because you don't have someone telling you what to do every step of the way. You are going to be thrown into a shark tank basically, and you have yourself to worry about so don't wait around for somebody to try and save you. Do your work, do it good, and don't wait around for someone to tell you what to do. You got the job for a reason, show off your skills and feel confident about your abilities. Sometimes, the greatest feedback is none at all so don’t stress the silence.
Brock Kirby gave the assignment of writing down 200 questions before he came to speak. Any type of question you had was worth writing down, and if you though too hard about what question to ask, he advised to put your pen down and not force anything. The most important aspect of the assignment, was to learn how to ask the right type of question. His example was instead of asking "Why is Trump such a bad guy?" ask "What was the moment Trump became such a bad guy?" Learning to frame your questions in this type of way, no matter how insignificant they may seem, can lead to really valuable insights. No question is a bad question, but make sure that you are asking it in a way that will provide you with an honest and helpful answer.
This plays into Brock Kirby’s advice to write down 200 questions that you had. But something that kept coming up during every speaker’s presentation was the word “why.” Natalie Kim had it on her agency worksheet, asking us why we wanted to pursue advertising. Alex Morrison told us to look for the why behind a question and an answer. Erica and Saeid advised us to probe into the answers we are receiving with the “yes, and?” sentence. Why is important. It is how we find understanding. It tells the story of a person and their actions or desires. Remember to never let go of the why behind something, don’t just take an answer at face value. Probe into it, try and see where it stems from and how you can get more meaning.
Embrace Your Stress
In college all my friends and I do is talk about how stressful classes are or how difficult it is to do what we love while also juggling coursework. People spend most of their time in college looking towards graduation and waiting for when the days of writing papers and taking tests are over, but that doesn’t mean stress will be gone either. There will be stress of paying for rent, cars and food on top of looking for a job or actually doing the work assigned to you at a job. The best thing that any of us can do is to just embrace it. Let your stress fuel you to finish your work, and if you know it’s not going away you better get used to living with it. No more 10 weeks of perfecting a project, once you have a job it will probably be more like 3 days and maybe even only a night depending on the client’s needs.
It’s important to remain up to date on big industry events in case you’re looking for a job and you see that somebody was just awarded something and is in need of more people to help produce the work. But beyond that, I really liked that Brock Kirby said it’s not all that important to stay up to date with AdAge or other industry-related platforms. You don’t want to stay in the dark, but it is much more useful to be reading about current world events or reviews of new music or movies. It is important to remember that your best work happens outside of work, and for this reason it is important to start your day with newsletters such as Cassandra Daily or Next Draft. Through platforms like these you are learning relevant and up-to-date information but outside the sphere of advertising which can be more inspirational.
Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
It is easy to feel discouraged when looking at somebody’s amazing design work or photography skills and want to do that yourself. For me, creative work has always been really fun but I have never excelled in any of its forms. Drawing and painting always felt awkward, I can’t quite find my voice when I write and using InDesign is like using my left hand. At first I was discouraged when I would see how beautiful some people’s portfolios of work were, but now I realize how much time and craft it takes and how new to all of this I am. I know I am good at talking to people, I know I like finding out why something matters to a person, I also know I really like talking about music. I know what my strengths are, and it is more beneficial to build these up than try and work harder on my weaknesses. There is room for everybody, so there is no need to be outstanding at all aspects of the job,even though many people are.
Don't Force It
You don't always know where a good idea will come from. Saeid Vahidi recommended to talk about some weird or interesting ideas with your team to try and get them to think differently. Sometimes when we think too much about creating something great, our brains shut down and the only thing we can think about is when we can be finished with the project. Since you are able to recognize what good work is, you aren't sacrificing the good for the bad. Sometimes you just need to get weird or crazy and go off topic in order to find the insight that inspires the work.
Books You Should Read
Don't Be Afraid to Use Social Platforms
It has become increasingly common for people to connect with others over their social media platforms. This is the reason that people have gained fame just because of their posts or follower count. Your social media presence can be a great indicator of the person you are, and potential employers value what you post. Make it good and true to yourself so that when people view it they can see themselves working with you. It is also easy to tweet at someone and tell them how much their work means to you, and just because of this you could add another person to your growing network. There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to make connections so it is important to use all the tools that you have in order to build a strong community of supportive people who believe in you and your work.
Kunal Merchant works with Audience Insights Partnerships at Facebook. He encouraged us to learn how to create informative content that can be used on Facebook for an audience of over 1.8 billion people. He advised everybody to be open because it opens up opportunities that you don't even know exist. He is able to give valuable insight into how your past passions (his was DJ-ing) can turn into a professional career, as well as information about what it would take to get a job at Facebook.
Jim Riswold has been a friend to my dad for as long as I can remember. Growing up I never realized the influence that Jim had over the advertising world but now seeing his past and present work is so inspiring and awe-inducing it is sometimes hard to talk to him like I did when I was younger. He has many connections in the advertising industry and outside of it and whenever we are able to get together it is fun to chat with him about his current and past projects and also to make fun of the bad work he is seeing. Once I graduate, I know that having his advice on where to look for a job will be extremely important as well as his references on people I should be reaching out to.
Open your... Ears?
I know I'm probably late to the party, but recently listening to podcasts has been the best thing about my daily walk to class. Over the course of winter term I have subscribed to numerous podcasts about true crime, weird historical events and just random stuff I should know (that's actually the name of one of them). During my time listening to these podcasts, I've really found an interesting community of people within the True Crime sphere. Everyone's fears of being murdered or attacked, fuels their passion for knowing every single gruesome detail about every horrific murder they can get their hands on. Through listening to "My Favorite Murder" I've started to understand why people are so fascinated by true crime. Because of this new (or old) cultural fascination with murder, it has shown me that it is really important to listen to podcasts or watch tv or read books about a variety of things, because they can give you great insight into what makes people tick and how they think. These people aren't evil, most of them are normal humans and they are looking for validation of their interests within the community of true crime, and it actually is very accepting and constructive.
I loved when Alex Morrison told our class about how he gives everybody in the office at 72 and Sunny a couple of memes to look at in the morning before work. As much as we want to dismiss them as silly or stupid, meme culture is super prominent for people of all ages and the demographics have shifted from mostly millennials into older generations as well. Meme culture can tell us a lot about what is happening with current world affairs, sports, school and just about anything else that people find funny, scary or interesting. I think memes give more insight into our culture than people give them credit for because there are so many different types about so many different topics and there are communities within the community as a whole. You can find people from all backgrounds talking about similar memes, or you can find memes from different countries in different languages. Instead of just laughing at them and moving on, look at the comments or the people posting them and you can learn something about our world.
I’m sick of talking about this idiot, but I feel like I need to just to ensure that we don’t forget about the damage he is doing to our planet and our people. His campaign was run on hatred, and it is so clear to see that hate reflected in our culture today. Students are getting deported, people are getting beaten or shot at and there is a cloud of distrust surrounding the citizens of the United States. It’s scary out here. But because of this, it is more important than ever to continue to question, create good work and create conversations about how problematic his policies and beliefs are. There is a lot of progress to be made and Trump has already squashed so much of it in only 3 months of being in office. I believe it is important to talk about this ding dong because it motivates me. It motivates me to work hard, fight hard and ensure that we don’t lose progress regarding climate change and women’s rights. I want my work to be passionate and inspiring, so that others will feel the urge to make change as well.
Alex Morrison gave us the advice to be a cultural anthropologist. You have to have people skills and understand what makes somebody think the way they do. Another way to think about this is to be an ethnographer. The definition of ethnography is “the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures.” We need to understand what makes our target market happy, sad, angry and hopeful. You don’t get this information by just scrolling on Instagram or talking to people that you already know. It is uncomfortable but so important to step outside of your own beliefs and really take the time to understand other people. You don’t always have to agree, but you have to know how to ask the right type of questions in order to get that one piece of information that will lead you to an “aha” moment.
The term "VR" conjures up images of people playing first-person video games such as "Call of Duty" or putting the headset on somebody who freaks out because they believe they have actually fallen off a cliff. But beyond the limitless entertainment capabilities that VR is bringing consumers, there is a question as to how to make it useful or use it for good. Kunal Merchant helped guide our class through the possibilities that VR opened up. Right now the rest of the world looks at American culture as something that is hateful and close-minded. Using VR we can show people who live in the U.S. how other cultures across the world live, in order to create more empathy. Travel isn't always possible due to finances and work and virtual reality can alleviate this trouble by allowing somebody to see how another group of people lives in a very in-depth way from their own home. Charity:Water has been playing around with VR by letting people sign up and experience life in Ethiopia, where water is scarce.
Having a job at the most sought-after agency means nothing if you don't like the culture, people or work that is being done. Merriam Webster defines culture as "the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization," and if you don't fit in with the culture an agency has cultivated your work and life will be miserable and uninspired. Agency culture is just as relevant to your job search as any other factor, but it can be hard to remember this when sometimes all that matters is getting a job that will allow you to get your foot in the door. Also, just because an agency makes it on a "Top 20 Best Agencies to Work For" list, doesn't mean that working there will work for everybody. Go and visit, talk to employees, study the work being made and make a decision that will be best for you not for somebody else.
Where is the Honesty?
With "fake news" becoming an epidemic in the United States, people are less trusting of their peers, government and media now more than ever. We live within our own bubbles of "confirmation bias" and only want to listen to ideas that align with our own because it is too difficult to break out and see where somebody else is coming from. This new cultural phenomenon of fake news is making it really difficult to be in any journalistic profession because people don't trust you anymore. Journalists are kicked out of press conferences and there is a general distrust for advertising because people don't like being sold on items that may or may not work. There are a lot of hoops to jump through right now, but it is possible to change the perception into one that is reflects how the SOJC teaches its students. We are here to make a difference, and through honest and thoughtful work this can be done.
Go Explore the University
The University of Oregon has a rich culture of students from diverse backgrounds and there are many events happening on campus year-round that can help broaden our understanding of the world and people's viewpoints. Something that many people forget about is the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. It is right on campus yet many people don't visit it or are more interested in going to portland for other exhibitions. There is an array of art from many different places including Russia, Cuba, China, Latin America and Oregon. There is even an exhibition on art from children in the Northwest. It is important that we take in works outside of the advertising industry, because it helps broaden our perspectives and inspire us. Plus, the JSMA is in the middle of campus and it couldn't be more easy to go and visit.
Make a Statement
One of my favorite Instagram accounts is unfortunate portrait. The artist makes prints, cards and t-shirts with witty designs combining famous people with well-known phrases to create something like "French Kiss" which would depict Gene Simmons wearing a beret and a striped shirt. Not only are the designs easy to understand, but they are funny and joyful and people really respond well to the political statements made by the artist as well. There is a design for everybody and it always makes me wish I had thought of the phrases that the artist created.
Recently, there has been a major influx of diverse casts gracing our television and movie theater screens. Moonlight won best picture at the Oscars, Get out made $113 million dollars at the box office, and tv shows such as Atlanta and Insecure are making waves for telling the stories of people of color by people of color. Finally we are able to see important stories getting widespread recognition and rave reviews. This is especially relevant because as our new government is increasingly less-diverse and accepting the arts will be important in making P.O.C.'s stories heard. I saw was able to watch every show and movie that I listed above, and it helped to open my eyes to the subtle racism and self-doubt that many people in the U.S. deal with in their real day-to-day lives. That is why it is so important for us to continue to fight for our diverse culture because it is what makes the U.S. an amazing and interesting country to live in.