Hello my fellow writers, creatives and ad nerds, today’s post is essay length but it’s much needed in the world of advertising. My aim was to bring another aspect and potential solution to the lack of diversity in Advertising.
A new friend of mine happened to pass along an article from Ad Age on Diversity in Advertising and how we can fix it. I like how the author, Lincoln Stephens, stuck to both sides of the equation, noting that to close this minority gap, both employers and candidates have to be proactive as well as accountable. I whole heartedly agree with his tactics but wanted to add in an additional perspective that I believe should seriously be considered.
Advertising education needs to be revamped on the undergraduate and portfolio school level. Seriously. In terms of minorities, particularly creatives, a lot of us are graduating with BA degrees and a portfolio that’s not ready for the industry. That’s a disconnect. Entry into the advertising industry is the opposite way. You need a robust portfolio to get your foot in the door. I don’t know about other universities and colleges advertising curriculums, so everything I’m speaking on pertains to Temple University’s Ad Department. Here’s the curriculum I completed.
As an alumna, I think my ad education was backwards. In broad terms, Temple’s Advertising education relies heavily on theory. We don’t start creating stuff until late junior year to early senior year. That’s a problem. Advertising education should be hands on from the gate. As soon as freshmen step onto campus, portfolios should exist after the first semester even if they are god awful. Yes, I understand the fundamentals have to be taught, but Advertising isn’t Engineering nor Chemistry. Put the pens and mouses in our hand and set us loose! As our education proceeds then work in fundamentals, history, theory, ethics, and the future of advertising. Portfolio creation and refinement should be the core of ad education from Freshman Year to Senior Year. Each semester, students should have to present their portfolio to pass just like a portfolio school. Think about it, spending fours years on your portfolio as opposed to an extra two that is or isn’t required depending on who you ask. The ad industry would have younger, and more viable creative candidates at 22 and 23. Plus internship and client experience!
Dealing with minority students, you can’t even skirt the fact that some if not most are not in favorable positions to afford portfolio school ($30-40K for two years) after completing an undergrad degree (60K+). Yet, seemingly creative internships are reserved for portfolio school students. There goes another disconnect. I’ve experienced this first hand. In my previous internship in 2011, creative spots weren’t offered at all, mysteriously. Even today I look at companies to see if they offer creative internships and most don’t. Most structured internship programs are organized around account management and planning.
The ad industry says it wants more minorities but is unwittingly making it difficult for them to break in if not closing minorities out. Current professionals even acknowledge that portfolio school is basically a must. So that means my undergraduate education in advertising isn’t adequate for me to enter into the industry with a BA degree. That’s a problem. I’ve basically spent over $30,000 to qualify for portfolio school. Only the Chicago Portfolio School specifically states a college diploma isn’t required. Others either require transcripts or the “highest record of education”, whatever that means. The ad industry is discouraging minorities from entering a profession that at one time didn’t require a degree for entry and still claims you don’t need a degree but ahh you do though.
I know I’m only one story, that’s why I think the ad industry should look into undergraduate advertising curriculums across the country to note similarities and differences. If it were possible, which in theory it seems so, I would of rather just went straight to portfolio school, why bother with a bachelor’s degree?
In the end, I loved my time at my alma mater, Temple University. They offered a lot of opportunities as far as internships and student agency experience albeit not until your junior/senior year. However, those still don’t compensate for the core education. More can be done. There is a better, cheaper way to educate future advertising professionals. I love the ad industry and don’t regret my career decision at all. Yes, I do have to put in extra work on my portfolio but I believe copywriting is my passion. I’ll continue to shop my book around and aim to improve it with each lap. I’m determined to get into this industry and if that means I have to go to portfolio school to get access to those creative internships I will, even if it takes me longer to save up the money to attend. By all means if I can finagle my way into a position, I will do that too.
The ad industry needs to line up with its values. If a degree isn’t required to attend portfolio school, then advertise it. If creative internships are indeed only for portfolio school students, then expect a wait. If a portfolio is the ticket into this industry, then no undergraduate advertising student should be walking across a stage with a portfolio that isn’t competitive against industry standards. Portfolio school shouldn’t be an unspoken, wishy washy requirement. I think we could get more minorities into the industry quicker if undergraduate programs were more effective. We wouldn’t have a dependence on auxiliary programs (although for latecomers like me they are a god send) to pull minority talent. We shouldn’t have to step outside of our industry’s structure to bring in minorities, we need to work with what’s in place. This includes undergraduate advertising programs, portfolio schools, internship programs, and agencies. We should aim to make the initial trajectory into advertising more clear, consistent, and effective.
Maybe it isn’t lack of minority interest, maybe its others like me who are busy paying back their bachelor’s degree and saving money so they can to gain access into a ticketed industry.
See you guys on Monday. Peace.