It Starts Before Teaching

In my last post I blamed universities for creating bad clients. But maybe I could blame the industry.

When I started my undergraduate degree at the tender age of seventeen, I had no idea what marketing was. Neither did any of my mates. We were all under the impression that marketing was advertising, and I’m sure many would argue this perception often doesn’t change, even after you graduate.

Our dream of working on ads was soon crushed by crippling numbers and boring accounting lectures. But maybe the reason we have bad clients is not because of the way marketing is taught. Instead perhaps all marketers inherently want to be advertisers, a misconceived possibility pushed upon them before OWeek due to ignorance.

Is the marketing industry not marketing itself appropriately to high school students?

No Comments
  • Cha Cha
    Posted at June 18, 2010 3:25pm, 18 June Reply

    You've hit the nail on the head Zac. we'd be better off doing advertising degrees with a design component rather than a marketing degree.

  • Alex of Melbourne
    Posted at June 18, 2010 4:01pm, 18 June Reply

    Marketing is always promoted as a component of a Business or Commerce degree, so a can't agree that it is being misrepresented. I love advertising, but I see it as a component of the broader marketing of a product/service. I think by doing a Marketing degree (which I did too) you give yourself a real advantage in Advertising because you understand the broader implications behind your work.

  • Stan Lee
    Posted at June 18, 2010 6:49pm, 18 June Reply

    Save your money kids.
    Give uni a miss.
    Get into an agency.
    If you can.
    Talent and hunger are what you need to succeed.
    Not a degree.

  • Rick
    Posted at June 19, 2010 1:20am, 19 June Reply

    Pfft who wants to work in advertising

  • LachyW
    Posted at June 21, 2010 11:59am, 21 June Reply

    A lot must have changed between our times at Monash mate. I did at least three subjects that left me with no doubt that advertising was a teenie, tiny little facet of the bigger marketing picture.

    But I know that there are many who will argue the AMI doesn't do nearly enough to lift the standard of marketing practitioners in this country. I've personally never had anything to do with them.

  • Daniel Oyston
    Posted at June 22, 2010 9:24am, 22 June Reply

    I think that’s the gap Zac. Think about it, did you ever go to a careers market?

    They are dominated by providers and not industries. E.g. they are full of universities that will tell you how to get qualified and you can chat directly to a current student of the uni who has never worked in the industry.

    Seems so stupid in hindsight doesn’t it?

    At the moment, careers markets are about trying to make a sale to a student rather than educate them. Schools must change their focus and have career markets that focus on careers rather than providers of qualifications for careers.

    Blame the schools.

  • Luci Temple
    Posted at June 23, 2010 2:49pm, 23 June Reply

    Uh, maybe you just didn't do your homework before enrolling in your degree? Not a good idea to sign up to four years and thousands of dollars without doing your research… 😉

    Things might have changed since I did my undergrad 12 years ago, but back then, I knew the best course for what I wanted out of advertising was the Communications-Advertising degree at Charles Sturt Uni : it included marketing subjects, but didn't bog us down by anything as irrelevant to us as accounting. We definitely knew the difference between "marketing" and "advertising." Better yet, we understood communication too.

    I'm sorry to say Zac, but it is a peculiar arrogance of your industry to think that all marketeers want to be advertisers. Advertising is just one small component of the process,and one tiny little industry in itself – being a social media manager you ought to realise that more than most (i.e. social media is not 'advertising'…).

    With the universities it's a numbers game: there is far more need for people with marketing expertise than for "advertising" so of course there are going to be far more degrees to cater for that demand… it's your own responsibility to seek out the right degree for yourself, because universities simply can't read your mind like they can your school results.

    Better questions would be: why didn't you do work experience before you enrolled in your degree, and ask those people what they recommended for the position you were interested in? Why didn't your school careers counselor ensure you were making the right decision for your particular circumstance? Or why are you still doing a 4 year marketing degree if it's not meeting your needs?

    Or how about we quit pointing fingers, trying to find someone to blame, and cop the responsibility ourselves?

    Bad advertising campaigns are more often than not the result of passing the buck. Creatives blame suits, suits blame clients, clients blame agencies, or whatever version you like.

    When you work in advertising sooner or later you have to make a decision, and ultimately it is this decision that determines the outcome of good or bad advertising:
    a) You tell the client what you really think, reject any bad ideas that might come up, and risk losing the client rather than put out bad work.
    b) You give the client what you think they want, because at the end of the day they are paying you.

    Agencies live in denial on this point, trying somehow to work in the middle. When bad work gets through they blame the client. But, if the agency has already programmed themselves to 'keep the clients happy', have they really given their best advice?

    Are "bad clients" really spoiled by an education? Or are they in fact spoiled by agencies? Agencies have far more experience in advertising than their clients, yet they fail to inform clients of the whole truth.

    And maybe it is precisely because of this that smart clients don't entirely trust their agencies. How can you trust someone who, when push comes to shove, tells you what you want to hear?

    Honesty is not something advertising agencies do well. I can think of at least a half dozen ways that agencies are far less than honest with their clients. And if a client can't believe the lies out of someone's mouth, then they have no choice but to step up to the plate and become more involved to make sure they're satisfied by the work. Hence, the creation of the dreaded "involved" client, who probably just wishes they could get honest quality advice – which they are paying through the nose for – so they could get on with the rest of their work.

  • Zac Martin
    Posted at June 23, 2010 4:07pm, 23 June Reply

    @ Luci Temple

    I guess I would summarise this post and the last by saying that universities set students up believing they have a strong say over advertising, when in many cases they don't. And in doing say, create bad clients.

    I'm not suggesting advertising in the only important part of marketing, but I think most people find that most interesting, particularly when you're leaving school. It's certainly the biggest creative outlet which I believe many people like to think they have in their day to day lives.

    Basically, I'd split the blame between the universities, the schools and even the industry, definitely not the Year 12 student.

  • Luci Temple
    Posted at June 23, 2010 5:04pm, 23 June Reply

    Zac, you really don't give much credit to 18 year olds, do you? Well, how about a 20 year old? Just because you started a particular degree, doesn't mean you can't change it now.

    If you want a creative job, it stands to reason you don't do a business/marketing degree and then expect it to be a "creative outlet"… also you'll note there's only one department in an advertising agency labelled "creative" versus the, what, eight or so, other departments…

    So go do AWARD school, or RMIT's advertising degree… or something else 'creative', which might have nothing to do with uni whatsoever.

    As for those other people, the "bad clients", actually, it is their responsibility within their companies to ensure they get a workable advertising campaign, and thus they do have the 'say' because they are in charge of the budget.

    It's unrealistic to expect universities to somehow give tailored lesson plans, splitting students into "clients", "creatives", "client service" etc, especially when they don't know where their students are going to end up, and most students haven't yet made that decision.

    If there's one thing I consider really important, regardless of role, it's understanding the whole process, so you know colleague needs, motivations, and communicate effectively with everyone you're working with. It is therefore useful to try out 'client side' or 'creative' during a hypothetical campaign, in a secure learning environment, even if it's not the role you aspire to eventually. Knowledge never hurt anyone.
    all the best 🙂

  • nat
    Posted at June 23, 2010 11:44pm, 23 June Reply

    everyone brought up some good points (I liked Oyston's point about Uni's "selling" degrees). But I think the term "Bad Clients" is a bit hacky. Most of my experience with 'clients' has more to do with management consulting rather than from an agency perspective. You can have annoying clients, demanding clients, unprofitable clients etc. But at the end of the day, we are all grown ups and we do our job and accept responsibility without trying to pass the buck – and think of creative ways of dealing with a difficult client who "doesn't get it". BECAUSE THEY ARE PAYING US FOR A SERVICE – not just to do what we think is awesome. That is the "job" – otherwise, really what is the job, being creative? 🙂
    I liked what Luci said you can either:
    a) You tell the client what you really think, reject any bad ideas that might come up, and risk losing the client rather than put out bad work.
    b) You give the client what you think they want, because at the end of the day they are paying you.
    Surely the most successful client relationships are ones where consultants/agencies use skill, strategy and creativity to delivery (a), do good work and educate the clients.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at June 24, 2010 6:45pm, 24 June Reply

    Zac, you are now showing ignorance coupled with arrogance.

    This blog will be the death of you career.

    Well, whatever 'Social Media Manager' means, which I'm sure refers to updating clients' Facebook Brand pages.

  • Zac Martin
    Posted at June 24, 2010 8:08pm, 24 June Reply

    @ Anonymous

    Actually my role does involve that. I work on community management and social media strategy.

    But if you can show me another 20 year old working in advertising, I won't assume you're a douchebag.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at June 25, 2010 9:21am, 25 June Reply

    I could show you plenty.

    Hell, I could even show you a 20 year old working in Aerospace Physics, now that is impressive!

  • Zac Martin
    Posted at June 25, 2010 9:56am, 25 June Reply

    Not if they wanted to work in advertising it's not.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at June 25, 2010 3:59pm, 25 June Reply
  • Zac Martin
    Posted at June 25, 2010 4:07pm, 25 June Reply

    I think you'll find all comments where I've been "flamed" my response has been less than a few sentences.

    But nice try.

  • katherineliew
    Posted at June 30, 2010 3:56pm, 30 June Reply

    Wow, a while since I've been here…time flies (but pigs don't).

    After completing a B.Comm it just convinced me that there's a limit to what you can learn about marketing at uni, especially the advertising component. It's more about getting out there and doing it.

    But you never get to hear that, because you go to a uni careers fair and obviously they're not going to tell you. Ad agencies are apparently too busy to advertise even when they need people so they're not going to tell school kids either.

    Anyway, look at the misuse of the word 'expert'. 'Marketing' suffers the same fate. Maybe blame the people who have over-used the words until they don't have a meaning anymore.

  • Jason Tsitsopoulos
    Posted at July 3, 2010 5:02pm, 03 July Reply

    I must say, Zac, I would say is the best student in my year level. This is why he has a job in one of the best advertising agencies. He has taken leaps and bounds to go beyond the call of duty which is university study and created a brand image which involves this blog. I myself have tried and am still trying to create my brand image but at the moment its to no avail. You can check out my website but its ridiculously hard and takes a long time to set up… So naturally I have better things to do. I commend Zac's for his efforts and I know that his CAREER is in no way in jeopardy, instead he'll be the Steve Jobs of marketing setting new standards and creating new and exciting ways to do marketing.

    One more thing: Eat that ANONYMOUS!

  • Anonymous
    Posted at July 8, 2010 7:25am, 08 July Reply

    Kissing ass isn't an argument.

    And please, personal branding is a joke. What gets you ahead is a reputation via successful projects, new thinking and strong client relationships, NOT how many envious uni buddies follow your blog.

  • Zac Martin
    Posted at July 8, 2010 10:33am, 08 July Reply

    Lulz, I had nothing to do with Jason's comment.

  • Jason Tsitsopoulos
    Posted at July 9, 2010 8:51pm, 09 July Reply

    That's right bro, I got your back!

  • Michael Bian
    Posted at October 17, 2013 7:15pm, 17 October Reply

    Interesting insights.

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