Being on holiday break offers a nice pause for reflection. Being asked to contribute a piece for “My Degree in JMC” doubles-down on that reflection. So I set myself up to reflect: sitting in my family room, feet kicked up on the ottoman, eating a Christmas cookie and looking out to our snow-covered backyard here in Chicago. Both kids are upstairs taking naps, and my wife is reading a book.
Not surprisingly, the strongest moments and experiences from JMC that have helped me throughout my professional career were those from the Advertising Campaigns course and the corresponding National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). Yes, there was consumer research and business analysis. Yes, there were communications and media strategies. And, of course, there were creative ideas. But, what benefitted me most was the varied collection of people that made up that class, and, more importantly, learning how to work together as a group, during that Spring 1997 semester.
Here’s the team, or “Agency 331,” as we had designated ourselves: Ram Balakrishnan, Carrie Beckner, Jen Brewer, Yi-Fan Chen, Billie Clay, Paul Justice, Heather Oliver, Tina Racer, Jon Rogers, Lene Thomsen, Susan Ux, Jennifer Walters, and myself.
We were quite a diverse group. Each had a different background – in life and at Marshall. Everyone brought something unique to the course and to our campaign for Pizza Hut, although at times we were not always sure of ourselves as individuals.
As anyone who took Campaigns class knows, the demands were many, with a rather autonomous structure driven mostly by the team. Throughout the semester, navigating the nuances of the individuals to achieve our collective goal ultimately became the nuance of the team. How we advanced together was as much a function of the variation in our group as it was the looming deadlines for a 40-page plans book and presentation.
Following Marshall, I graduated from the VCU Adcenter (now VCU Brandcenter), a masters program in Richmond, Virginia, designed to replicate real-world advertising agency experience. Again, the dynamics of each team became critical to success – and I hadn’t even started working with clients yet.
My professional career started in Richmond, working at The Martin Agency on the Timberland account. Then, I moved to Chicago to work at Y&R on Sears and Miller Brewing. Shifting further West, I moved to Portland, Oregon, to work at Wieden + Kennedy on the Nike business. After returning to Chicago in 2004 and working at Y&R Chicago for a few more years, I landed at Energy BBDO, where I have worked for the past nine years, on Wrigley/Mars, AB In-Bev, and now Bayer.
At each of these agencies, I have been a part of countless teams on countless projects. It, indeed, takes a village to launch a national or global advertising campaign. Each agency and client team has been different. Some teams are easy; they flow well. Other teams are brutally difficult, requiring constant assessment of goals and motivation of the team.
Today, I lead both domestic and global teams. I work closely with my colleagues in Chicago, but I also connect with teams from our BBDO network around the world every day. From Russia to Brazil, from Australia to China, I interact with teams from vastly different cultures and backgrounds.
Each project brings together various people that make up the team. Each initiative demands a unique approach based on that team – working together to try to achieve success. After all, it is the team that makes the work.
In the Spring of 1997, I learned a lot about the makings and motivations of a team in the JMC Advertising Campaigns course. And, even though I really didn’t take the time to reflect much on it then (maybe I needed an ottoman and some Christmas cookies in my dorm room), it is something for which I remain thankful to this day.
Best wishes for a wonderful 2016.