How College Can Help Your Advertising Career

I read an essay that said, in part: “Classism in advertising is an unfortunate reality that omits an entire league of talent and subsequently has the power to dilute the quality of work the industry produces.”  Among the solutions recommended by the writer was for agencies to: “Eliminate college degree requirements. By doing this, agencies can immediately broaden their potential talent pool.”

While this might help eliminate crushing student debt, I would argue there is much to learn in college that can be helpful to a career in advertising.

Drinking so it can’t be detected. Although the industry has gone far beyond the three-martini lunch, there is still plenty of opportunity to imbibe, then try to act sober while you slog through the afternoon. Those who cannot achieve this important deception run the risk of being on the list of those who are only engaged “after lunch,” when they are in a better mood and more likely to say yes.



Lying. Now that That-Moron-in-the-White-House has institutionalized lying, we are all released from any sense that the truth is important. 

College is an exceptional training ground for lying — from convincing your significant other that you were not at bars on Thursday night, but studying at the library, to convincing the teaching assistant that although admittedly there are a few similar sounding phrases, you, in fact, did not buy your term paper on the web. 

Very little in an advertising career is more important than the ability to lie convincingly.

Creative excuses. While a distant cousin to lying, coming up with utterly convincing reasons why you failed to do your homework or missed last night’s chapter meeting (“stomach problems”) is an essential tool in the ad business. Placing the blame on others is an art form that can take you right into the C-suite of most agencies.

Insincerity. Another distant cousin of lying. It is critical that you spend your four years (or so) on campus honing your ability to deceive others into thinking you are in agreement with them.  

Being “on the same page” is a time-honored method of avoiding arguments and giving clients the impression that they occasionally have great campaign ideas. When it doesn’t turn out that way, your talent at passing the blame to the creative director will come in handy.

Thinking and drinking. If you learn nothing else in college, it is imperative that you learn how to still think clearly when you are hammered. The old days of groping first and asking for forgiveness later are long gone. 

You have to be able to drink a quart of Screaming Jesus (or whatever they called it at your school) and still function well enough to avoid a charge of sexual misconduct or saying something that sounded funny at the time, but is now going viral as proof of your sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic upbringing.   If you can’t drink and think, you do not belong in the ad business.

Creative cheating. Lots of kids enter college thinking honesty is the best policy, but it doesn’t take long to realize that those who are ranked at the top of their class are often aided by external stimulus (think: benzos, Adderall, Ritalin) and well-orchestrated flying wedge seating that allows the person behind a clear view of the guy in front’s test answers. Not to mention all the ways phones can help raise your test scores. 

Once you realize that those who perform better than you are not smarter or work harder, the door is open to a career of shortcuts and creative accounting.

Welcome to advertising.

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