A Trip to Your Alma Mater Benefits Your Agency and Students

Next Generation of Advertisers Can Provide Inspiration -- and Insight

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
I recently spent a couple of days at Penn State (aka Happy Valley), for the university's semi-annual College of Communications board meeting. Some people ask me why I go back to my alma mater a few times a year. They say it in a way that infers I am wasting my valuable time being away from my agency and clients for a couple of days. But unless you have the opportunity to go back to a college campus and sit down with students, I believe you will soon be disconnected with the future of our business.

Truth is, I find it re-energizing to go back to Penn State and chat with students about why they want to go into our industry (and a number of them still do!); debate some marketing topics; and provide answers to their many questions. You can see the passion and gratitude in their eyes when you give them the time and respect they deserve. More important, both student and alumnus grow in the process, as each learns new perspectives about current issues. Are newspapers going to die? Does digital marketing always have to have an ROI? Should direct marketing rely on account planning? Do creatives still need physical portfolios or will online books suffice? Theses and more questions and answers were tossed around, and it proved to be a valuable opportunity to think about things that are changing -- the sorts of things that we are often too busy to evaluate.

One sad part of my most recent stay on campus was when the seniors introduced themselves to me. I've been doing this for years, and typically the seniors are confident and eager to share which employer they have chosen to start their careers with. This year, this economy has ripped that dream right out from under these unfortunate graduating seniors. Can you imagine getting your diploma in 2009? They all had the same look on their faces, and in their tone -- a look of inevitable bad timing. "Yeah, I'm the class of 2009. Lucky me. I'll have to live with my parents until someone in advertising starts hiring again." I told them to polish their digital marketing skills, as that sector is still hiring. They listened, and hopefully, they will pursue that path.

If you haven't been back to a college campus -- and it doesn't have to be the one you graduated from -- I urge you to do so. By reconnecting with the future of our business, you are helping mentor the next generation of our industry. And you will find inspiration, remarkable insights, plus you can get an early start recruiting for talent. A day that cannot come too soon for students and employers alike.

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