The Future of Advertising: Up Close and Personal

2013 AAF Houston Student Conference GraphicWorking and interacting with students, especially those of college age, is always interesting, entertaining and fun. Recently, I had the privilege of volunteering as a portfolio and resume reviewer during the annual American Advertising Federation Houston Student Conference. This is usually the prelude to the AAF District 10 NSAC (National Student Advertising Competition).

As with past years of doing this, my table quickly filled as students wanted me to review, comment and answer questions regarding their portfolios. The scene was the same at other tables set up in our hotel ballroom. This was cool, I thought. Then it hit me, “How in the heck was I going to cater to these students given the one hour allotted?” I told them I would give them all my attention if they were willing to wait for it – even to the end of the conference. And they did!

Like sponges, ready to soak up every last bit of information and critique they could get. Bless their little advertising hearts!

Like with some client presentations, some students (agencies) were better prepared than others. Technology is to blame for some of this. We get so caught up in what we’ll present, that we forget HOW we’re going to present. A “Plan B” didn’t seem to be part of the homework for some of these folks, no matter how well-intentioned. That’s okay. I made it known how they could be better prepared.

One needs to make the presentation as simple and engaging as possible. There’s no time to go searching for that now-illusive mp3 recording of your radio ad. Have them in one file for easy and quick access. And, have the script standing by just in case.

Along these lines, I strongly suggested they have a PRINT portfolio readily available, in addition to their digital files. One never knows when the power will go out or if the person to whom you’re presenting actually wants to touch and feel the work sample in their own hands. I suggest this for both students and non-students (the rest of us) as well. Contrary to popular belief, digital is not the end all.

Some of the young people had better explanations of their work, and why it was included, than others. Most wanted to know if their samples were good enough to be included, and how many samples they should include.

While I shared my observations with them, I also provided a few suggestions as to how to get feedback, but stressed that if they had any doubt about a piece, leave it out (unless feedback suggests otherwise). It might be included for the “interview after next.”

While all seemed to know precisely what they had included in their portfolios, I did not get a sense they knew their work “cold.” I suggested they be prepared to present it upside down while standing up. That’s just impressive when that’s done.

Now, I realize this form may be a little tricky to do when presenting digital samples from an iPad, but one should know about each piece and what’s special about it – why one is presenting it.

All in all, the students were very gracious, respectful, and personable.  We all had a wonderful time. They’re smart enough to realize that no matter one’s age, how one presents one’s creative credentials is just as important, if not more so, than the work itself.

Believe in yourself and convey that. Let your passion show. We should all be involved in this continuing education and refining of not only what goes in our portfolio but how we present it. These students are off to a very good start, which bodes well for the future of advertising.

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