Teaching in Advertising

by christinamdick

Last week, my section of VCU’s undergraduate advertising course in campaigns met for the first time. This is my second time teaching the course, described as an: “Intensive study in the planning and preparation of advertising campaigns. Students develop complete advertising plans including research, media and creative strategies, sales promotion plans and merchandising plans.” With encouragement from Scott Sherman, I put my own spin on the course. Because of my experience both in agencies and on corporate social teams, I created a course  plan that focuses on a social media campaign: “This course will take you through the process of creating a social media campaign for a brand, choosing the right channels, targeting the right audience, and understanding how to shift your approach based on ongoing community management and analytics.”

My goal is to take students through the process I’ve seen and give them as much real-world exposure as possible. Last year, the students heard from local entrepreneurs, branding experts, copywriters, and had a Skype call with my favorite web designer all the way from  Ohio. I keep a running list of the types of people students request to meet, and do my best to get those people in front of them. So far, I know they want to meet someone at an in-house agency and someone who’s started their own business. Don’t be surprised if I reach out for a favor 🙂

A lot of the way I teach my course is inspired by this guide. I like Scott’s overall message of inspiration, empathy and relatability. I try to bring that philosophy to how I teach. I also think back on all of the teachers I’ve been lucky enough to have had that inspired me.

To kick things off, I like to ask a few questions as an icebreaker at the beginning of class:

What’s been your favorite class so far at VCU? Why? What project have you been the most proud of? Tell us about it. What are your extracurricular activities? Where do you work? What’s your favorite social media channel and why? What brand do you think is doing a great job? What do you love about their advertising? What’s your dream job? What client would you love to do work for? What’s a fun fact about you? What’s your favorite part about being a VCU student?

I loved hearing the answers on there. I got to hear students talk about projects they were passionate about, inside and outside of school. When we got to fun facts, I learned I have a karaoke expert, a unicycler, and an actor in a local production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

After class, I sent them their first assignment:

“This is an iconic ad from Volkswagen What would this campaign be like today, with all the possibilities of social extensions .


Your assignment is to scour YouTube, magazines, ask your friends and do surveys to find great campaign ideas with missed social media potential. It could be a current campaign/client that lacks an integrated digital approach, or a brilliant brand or campaign from back in the day that would have been that much better if social media was around. I’d like to see a few examples from each of you. Be able to explain, talk about what you like about the campaign and the potential you see.”

I would LOVE to hear your ideas on brands that would be cool for the students to use for this exercise. Feel free to ask me questions and share your advice!