Commentary by Rance Crain

ADVERTISING AND IDEALISM CLASH AT COLORADO UNIVERSITY

Scholars Want to Kill School's Integrated Marketing Programs

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The "mass-communications scholars" are making mischief at the University of Colorado and the result might
Rance Crain, editor in chief, 'Advertising Age'

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well be the demise of the school's integrated-marketing-communications graduate program and much of the undergrad advertising program.

The problem is both IMC and ad studies deal with the world as it is -- competition, mass marketing, commercialism. The "media studies" committee wants to deal with the world the way it thinks it should be -- where competition is a dirty word.

Advertising: 'Not a very nice thing'
Tom Duncan, director of the IMC program, said most members of the media-studies group have "little or no media or advertising experience. They research and teach about mass communications, mostly criticizing it, rather than teaching how to do it. They see the media as the 'watchdogs of democracy' and that's not all -- they don't even want to discuss that the media are for-profit businesses. They regard advertising as a way to manipulate people, create more materialism and, in general, not a very nice thing."

Tom tells of a meeting with his dean and people from other areas in the university. Someone from the business school used the word "competition" and someone else apologized. Tom said there was no need to apologize, that he used that word in his school. The dean then spoke up and said, "Not all of us."

The problem with American media
The media-studies committee questions why an advertising sequence exists within the journalism school (a concern laid to rest at most universities). But it more pointedly contends that advertising "exists in an unregulated market where it is regarded by some as constituting the heart of the crisis of American media."

The panel recommends discontinuing ad studies as Colorado now does it "so that the program can move toward one more deeply engaged in creative development and digital design, and one seeking deeper understanding of the public-as-consumer." The end result would be two new divisions: the division of media and cultural studies and the division of creative advertising, design and technology.

Severing the link
As I get it, one division protects consumers from the excesses of advertising and the "time-suck" of mass media, as novelist Chuck Palahniuk puts it, and the other treats advertising as an art form, one the committee wants to be more aesthetically pleasing to consumers. Any link between advertising, media and the distasteful process of selling would be severed. Benton & Bowles' great old slogan, "It's not creative unless it sells" is hereby stricken from the records.

It's little wonder the media-studies committee also wants to abandon the IMC graduate program -- just as corporations across the country are jumping on the integrated-marketing bandwagon. The committee admits IMC "on its own terms has been a success." The problem is that IMC is "fundamentally a skills-training program and thus is out of step with the thrust of the committee's sense that skills should always be imbued with larger normative values as to the role of communicative practices in a democracy."

Translation: Teaching students how to make a buck is not compatible with the committee's ideas for kinder, gentler communications that should not in any way be tainted by the stigma of commercial activity.

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