When the MOB (Marketers of Baruch) asked us to meet with them, we knew we couldn’t say “no.” After all, they’re a bunch of bright-eyed students eager to enter the workforce right as the pandemic is subsiding and companies are reeling from its economic impact. None of that stopped students at CUNY Baruch College who have been driven to network with agencies virtually via Zoom. We were immediately impressed by the group and reminded of our age, as the students entered the Zoom grid and used a QR code to sign in. The future generation is savvy and knows how to do contactless, that’s for sure.
Here are some of the key questions and answers from our panel discussion:
How have the pandemic and Zoom affected your job and made it harder to collaborate?
In today’s WFH environment, you’ve got to be a self-starter because no one is sitting next to you, verbally reminding you of the work that needs to get done. Luckily, advertising agencies can operate remotely pretty seamlessly and have not been devastated like companies in hospitality or other industries that require in-person contact. Zoom is a godsend and can keep everyone connected but also does make it challenging to collaborate and stay focused. Often times we wish we had a good old-fashioned conference room and white board to scribble down random thoughts that can snowball into a coherent idea. Some of us at True North have bought our own personal whiteboards to brainstorm independently, and then we use the screen share function on Zoom to all look at one Keynote or Google Doc as we throw down promising phrases and organize them into strategic concepts.
Where do you come up with ideas and which brands and ad campaigns should we be looking at for inspiration?
Ideas can come from anywhere. We don’t advise geeking out over finished ad campaigns created by other agencies and trying to replicate them. That’s a quick way to get stuck and stifle originality. Instead, we advised the MOB to take it outside the ad world and pay attention to their IRL surroundings…people, nature, art, music, TV shows, movies, and so on. We also encouraged the students not to be afraid to explore a seemingly crazy, unrealistic avenue. Don’t edit yourself on the first draft. Say what you want to say unfiltered and check the brief later. There’s usually a way to infuse the strategy and objectives after the fact, but a safe and dry approach will likely stay that way. One other nugget of knowledge was to unplug and dig into the old arts and crafts cabinet. Not even the sleekest Photoshop effects will mask a bad idea. Get back to basics and sketch what you’re imagining or free associate words until something catchy comes together. Inspiring ideas are often simple at their core. And most important of all, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the creative process.
How do I stand out in an interview and what do you look for from new candidates?
You must get along well with others and be a team player…obviously! Aside from the cliché attributes any company seeks, agencies want to see that entry level candidates will adapt in the real world. Spec work might be very funny or clever and hit all the right notes, but could you take it from the classroom to the client? Will your ideas break the client’s budget? You might have a shining resumé with a sky-high GPA and extracurriculars for days—but are you constantly thinking about how to improve upon creative and media executions that you see on TV, Instagram, at the bus stop, or on the expressway? In your cover letter, why not speak to something you saw recently from a top brand and tell us why you think it’s effective or ineffective? Think about how you can stand out by putting what you’ve learned into practice.
What media skills and programs does your agency use and should we be learning?
Broad skills such as communication, organization, analysis, strategy, math, and negotiation are integral to a media role. Specific skills you’ll likely need to know include budget management, knowledge of core media channels, target audiences, digital media formats, rate types, and evaluation metrics. The main programs our media team uses are: Facebook Ads Manager, Google Campaign Manager, Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Search Ads 360, and Display & Video 360, as well as research tools like MOAT and Kantar. Having solid partnerships with vendors is helpful in accessing programs and research tools that are often expensive and exclusive.
To set you apart from other candidates, there are many free marketing courses out there like Google Ads Search Certification. While marketing and business degrees are helpful, other educational backgrounds in psychology or math could definitely translate to a media role. Additionally, understanding how media works on a fundamental level and how consumers engage, adopt, and adapt to the changing media landscape is really important. The works of classic theorists, like Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and Susan Sontag, or more modern theorists, like Malcolm Gladwell, Brian Solis, and Lev Manovich, are helpful to read.
Overall, we hope our advice for the 2021 grads was useful. It was a dynamic discussion that went slightly over the blocked timeframe, and that’s a testament to the ambition and intellect of this sharp group of students who continued to press us for information and insights. Thanks again to Baruch College’s VP of Networking, Jane Kim, for asking True North to be a part of the agency networking program!