80 Years Later, Ad Age Still Lighting the Way

Our On-Campus Efforts Helping to Bridge Gap Between Academia and Real World

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Rance Crain
Rance Crain
What do I like most about my favorite publication's 80th birthday? It's that we've renewed our ties with young people through the academic community.

College advertising educators are well aware that the ad industry faces some enormous challenges, with not only advertising's credibility but also its very acceptance at stake.

I just returned from speaking to the annual conference of the American Academy of Advertising, and I delivered the message that today's advertising environment demands "imagination, courage -- and newly forged alliances."

We ran a story the other week on Jim Stengel's new career as a part-time UCLA marketing professor and a part-time consultant. What he's doing on the academic side is infusing his classes with real-time drama and excitement. "Other courses ... tend to be academic and theoretical, whereas this is rubber meets road, where you see how it is, and it's messy in real life ... and it's stressful and there's a lot of hand-wringing to get to the right answer," said David Lubars, chief creative officer of BBDO North America and one of the presenters in Mr. Stengel's course.

When I was in Moscow a couple of years ago, Russian ad professors complained that there wasn't enough interaction among academicians and working ad professionals. I heard the same thing at the AAA confab. Of course it's a two-way street: Not only do professionals need to show students how the real world works, but the same professionals need access to the research conducted by the ad professors. White papers, conferences, articles and webinars can all be conduits for the flow of information that's important to push through the pipeline.

The big need, most ad professors agree, is to work together to develop an evolving and organic curriculum, such as Mr. Stengel is doing at UCLA, that will better prepare students to enter the profession with an understanding of how theory informs practice.

Our Ad Age on Campus program is aimed at bridging that gap. We provide weekly print and video to ad professors to keep their curriculum current and relevant. And this year we are partnering with Cengage to package Ad Age on Campus with two leading textbooks.

At the AAA conference, we announced that Ad Age and Cengage are publishing a workbook written by Esther Thorson and Margaret Duffy, both of the University of Missouri, using recent articles from Ad Age to support the text and bring real-world cases to the classroom.

We'll also host two private forums on AdAge.com for Ad Age on Campus members -- one for teachers to connect with our editors and share classroom experiences, and the other for students to prep them for interviews and connect them with mentors who have been in the professional world for under seven years and who can still remember how stressful it can be when you are just starting out.

With the advertising landscape undergoing such pronounced and radical change, our reporters and editors are taking on new roles to explain to our readers what all the changes mean and how they can be out front of the digital frontier.

It's been our job to report the news ever since my dad started Advertising Age in 1930. But now we break news around the clock on AdAge.com, which has 800,000 visitors a month from the U.S. and increasingly around the globe. Our viewership peaks at 9 a.m. for the U.S. and midnight in the rest of the world. Now our job in our weekly print product is to not only explain what the news means but also to tell you how to do better, more effective advertising with all the new tools at your disposal.

As we go forward, our job is more and more educational and even "consultational." Back in 1980, when we turned 50, we ran a regular column by our longtime broadcast editor Maurine Christopher called "Videotech." As she wrote in our Jan. 7, 1980, issue: "Cable TV's most enthusiastic boosters see its greatest current potential as a specialized medium perfectly suited to reaching select audiences. And more and more programs are going up on the satellite." But back then, of course, it was all one-way traffic.

Later we had a breakthrough column on interactive marketing, and now we have a conference on Creativity and Technology. Consumers can receive anything anywhere, and interact and engage with it.

What can possibly be next? As we head toward our 100th birthday, let me quote what I wrote 30 years ago: "Our challenge is to remain alert, aggressive and responsive. We appreciate your support in this endeavor and we pledge that we will always try to be worthy of it in the issues ahead." And, of course, our postings.

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