The other day I had the pleasure of having coffee with a 20 year old advertising student that emailed me asking for some guidance. He was troubled. Not with the industry and its current state but with the school he has attended. A 2 year advertising program at a college that has basically prepared him for absolutely nothing.
I asked him about the curriculum and what he told me left my mouth hanging open.
They are teaching old school methodology. Concept driven drivel on generic products that have been done to death year after year since the late eighties. How original…lets create a new print concept for a hot sauce. It doesn’t matter that 30,000 before you also have an ad like this in their book, or that agencies (in the past) have won numerous awards for this client. You are sure to one-up them.
I asked the student about interactive and what courses he was taking?
I asked him about social media and what they have touched on?
“This is the problem” he stated. “I don’t think they are preparing us for what we need to succeed in this industry”.
He is right. Advertising today is not about creating a billboard for a hot sauce. Advertising today is about creating what is right for the client. And every one of them is different. If the client is best served by an ad campaign on a social networking site, then you do an ad campaign that will be successful on a social networking site.
They aren’t touching on web design programs? Not even one day on the basics?
Nearly every creative want-ad in the careers section of industry magazines (in today’s market) wants an interactive art director.
Many schools need to wake up and stop taking student’s money with the false promise of careers in this industry. The curriculum needs to be updated every few years with a focus of what is new and what is coming. Not what was and is now going.
According to this student, the instructors also persuade them to take on spec work for clients to help build their portfolios. This is not the first time I have heard this. In a recent comment on one of my past blog posts, the writer states…
“What really frustrated me was how the teachers at my school would encourage us to take jobs from "good clients" at a ridiculous price to "make our names". I think our teachers weren't aware that it didn't work like that anymore”.
To sum up, what I have seen (time and time again) in meeting with graduating students is that many schools are taking their money, the instructors are tired designosaurs teaching what they knew back when they were at the heights of their careers (decades ago), and they are instilling in these kids a low sense of self-worth. The very people that are supposed to be preparing their students for a successful career in this industry are contributing to the demise and immorality that has taken over through spec work, contribution to contests, and working for little to no money with the hope that somebody may take notice down the road.
If I were to teach (and I have thought of doing this many times), my course would focus on real world business preparation. Many end up freelancing (in one form or another) so I would teach them the basics. How to write a proper proposal. How to create a proper contract and invoice. How to prepare for taxes. Things that hold up in this business. I would prepare students for the real world. No sugar coating. I’d even give a lesson on how to collect from a deadbeat client. If I was to have them work on a client, I’d pick some obscure start-up and have them start from the bottom up.
The last thing I would have them do is create an ad for a generic client, in a tired medium, and tell them to get out there and sell themselves short. If you’re going to teach concepts, make the students adapt their work into executions for different mediums available in today’s world. The ad for hot sauce should not just be a billboard, it should also be applied into some form of a promotion utilizing the internet. It should involve different applications and mediums for a complete execution.
Students, research the school you choose. Research how many graduates got hired in their respective field. Research the backgrounds of the instructors. Where do they stand in the industry right now? Choose your school the same way you would choose your spouse.
Because before you know it, the only thing you’ll be able to do with that hot sauce ad is identify the product easily in the supermarket.
Until next time, keep dreaming.