University Fail: Advertising Students Aren’t Learning Squat


Your university? Let’s talk about the classes for a sec. We’re not saying to forget about the tuition hikes, the racist incidents, the Title IX cases, the corrupted administration money. Don’t forget about any of that. But for a second, focus on the curriculum.

Your university probably isn’t preparing you for the advertising world

Dear, current undergrads — the tail-end millennials and Gen Z’ers soon to be entering the workforce– we know you’ve been questioning if you got your money’s worth. Unfortunately, for most advertising students (or marketing, public relations, graphic design, English students gearing their degree toward the ad industry), the answer is probably no.

Here’s why.

In your classes, even the hands-on ones, what was the closest you got to ideating, executing, presenting to a client, and measuring the success of, say, a Google ad campaign? Did you actually get into the Google suite to check it out? Or did you, maybe even with a group, come up with goals and ideas and talk about why it would work?

Or, beyond this absolute necessity to learn the technology, did you get to focus on the latest strategies and advertising theories? Or study underdog brands? Or did you, like so many, be lectured about traditional advertising and marketing tactics? How it used to be done, why it used to work one way, etc etc.

What a load of crap

We think students need a max of a week (in total… in all 4 years of college) to learn how it used to be done. Then the real value comes from learning not only how to do it now, but how to stay on top of the game for the foreseeable future. How to learn new technologies fast. How to respond on your toes to angry clients. How to come up with new strategies. Not only that Nike has such widespread brand awareness, but how to figure out what they might do next, and why?

Students today, and this doesn’t just go for advertising and marketing students, are being taught in theoreticals, in traditionals, in abstracts, when you really need to be taught to be bold, to be new, to think differently, to learn on your feet, to be confident and to defend your decisions.

Here’s the kicker: Anyone can Google how to run an ad campaign and follow a tutorial. They might even do okay for the money they put in. But true successful, game-changing advertising and marketing will be learned in the field, backed up by knowledge gained about how to change the game for yourself.

The advertising world isn’t about banking on old methods.

Or the perfect formula for copywriting a tagline. Or the rule of thirds in a logo design. You shouldn’t want to ask your old professor why your site isn’t converting. You should want to get your hands dirty. You should want to swim around in the jargon and the technology so effortlessly that all your energy can go towards being a bold and relentless creative.

What can YOU come up with, to reach the goals YOU set? Who CARES if that’s not how it used to be done? Who cares if it’s not tried-and-true? Who cares, seriously, about traditional marketing and advertising when the world we live in now is so revolutionized and fast-moving that you’re just fighting to be seen at all? Don’t drop out– at least not yet.

But be aware of what you’re learning- and NOT learning- as you get this degree. Know whether your internships are expanding your knowledge or if they’re just another practice round of a class assignment. We’re not telling you to learn how to tell the future– we’re telling you to dictate the future for yourself, before someone else does and leaves you studying how to catch up.

Get out there and do shit yourself. Win graphic design awards. Enter a communication arts annual. Get in a print magazine. Create something weird. Change the game. Because it’s going to keep changing whether you’re ready to play or not.

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