Three lessons I’ve learned in three months of advertisingTomorrow is New Years Eve and I am filled with an overpowering combination of caffeine and nostalgia.
It’s during these marked passing of time that humans naturally seem to evaluate, and I am no exception. But for some reason, 2014 seems especially deserving of reflection. Perhaps it’s because I graduated from college and moved into my first home. Perhaps it’s because I gained 1/3 of a vivacious German Shepard mix (my roommate mothers the other 2/3). While each of these events has had an impact on my life, none has been more significant than my shift from Nonprofit Development Coordinator to Advertising Account Executive.Yes, merely three months ago I crossed the boundaries of space and time and entered into the alternate reality that is advertising – digital advertising to be specific. In those three months I have been exposed to an enormous amount of information, and I’d like to share the dollops that I have processed. (Side note, I work for a small agency based out of Tampa, Florida. Our specialty is digital advertising. Naturally, my conclusions will be based on these experiences and therefore cannot, and do not attempt to, reflect the entire advertising world.)
- “Advertising”, especially digital advertising, is defined differently depending who you talk to. My first month was primarily a vocabulary lesson. I wondered if the terms would ever end. Three months later, I am absolutely certain that the terms will never end. Every agency is unique, much like every client is unique. While McKay A+A defines “digital advertising” as programmatic buying, digital display, facebook in-stream, website retargeting, video pre-roll, etc, many agencies define “digital advertising” as website design and social media management. It has been incredibly beneficial to go through this state of confusion because I can only assume that many businesses go through it too. Everyone is trying to sell them the “best way to reach their customers” and it seems that few people take the time to explain HOW they are going to reach their customers and how they will know that they’re successful. This brings me to my next point ….
- With Advertising, nobody truly knows the answer. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. There is more than one way to eat an elephant … or something like that. Each agency has a different approach, and it’s the right/responsibility of the client to ensure that they are choosing the agency and approach that is right for them. I have the opportunity to work for an agency that uses a wide variety of channels in addition to our digital paths (online, broadcast, print, etc.) and will allocate funds depending on the best interest of the client. There are widely respected agencies that believe wholeheartedly in the power of broadcast television. There is not one right answer. And if there is, it must be in month-six of the training program.
- Advertising isn’t brainwashing. I am sure I am not alone in my previous belief that advertisers are professional manipulators. I would see an advertisement boast, “This lamp will change your life!” and think, “Wow, is anyone buying this crap?”
But now, I realize that advertising can be an incredibly positive force. I’ve had the pleasure of helping small business owners get their first big boom in sales and live out their dream. I’ve helped a School Board reach at-risk students who would otherwise drop out, and enroll them in an alternative program to complete their degree. If advertising is done right, people are hearing about products and services that can better their lives. Think about a friend who suggests a lunch spot when you’re hungry. It’s when advertisements target the wrong audience or use the wrong message that they are no longer effective and helpful.
So there they are, my three gleaming lessons. I have gained a good deal of jargon and industry tips as well, but I felt that it was more important for me to write on my ideological conclusions. I believe that it is essential to understand why you do what you do in order to do it well. As an account executive, my goal is to provide solutions in order to help people reach their desired audience, be those people CEO’s, CMO’s, or small-business owners. By undergoing this sometimes-overwhelming attribution process, I can definitely empathize with the digital newcomer. The past three months have been incredibly exciting, confusing, rewarding, and overall enriching. I look forward to what lies ahead.