“If you want to learn something, teach it” is probably my favorite adage.
And so, once again, I’m returning to teaching this fall—renovating and reinvigorating the Future of Advertising course I first taught at MCAD back in 2008 (after ruminating on it the year before). Almost a decade later and the future is still out there, and it starts in about a week. I’m grateful to MCAD’s Entrepreneurial Studies program for asking me back.
I wrote about the joy of teaching in 2009. It is a pleasure to stew in the subject material and collaborate with students to figure out what resonates and why. It’s also a great excuse to connect with the people much smarter than I and elicit their perspectives. I am forever grateful to everyone who reacted to the syllabus below, asking important questions, suggesting refinements and additional content. Kudos to Rosie and Faris Yakob, Chris Bradley, Edward Boches, Kevin Swanepoel, Zach Pentel, Paisley Schade, Rick Webb, Sung Chang, Julie Scheife, Jim Splinter and Lori Yeager Davis.
The subjects will evolve, of course, especially as a slew of awesome guest speakers influence things. Here are the building blocks of the official syllabus.
The marketing and advertising industry is grounded in the supremacy of ideas and is constantly adjusting to emerging communication platforms. This class examines those adjustments and emergence in depth to understand how effective ideas continue to come to life across digital and social media. We’ll explore and define how consumer, category, and platform insights matter. We’ll consider and develop strategic foundations that support ideas across multiple media. We’ll dive into the tools marketers and agencies use to power ideas today. Assignments throughout the semester will introduce students to exercises in developing content for existing and emerging digital platforms while exploring the relationship between humans, and existing and emerging technologies to create innovative campaigns. Marketing and advertising guest speakers will join the faculty in reviewing assignments and offering feedback on assignments. Prerequisite: Introduction to Advertising or Copywriting.
Students completing this course will be able to do the following and more:
- Understand context — how and why the marketing/communications/advertising/PR industry has evolved since the Internet (and why that matters)
- Describe the forces—new processes, platforms, technologies, roles and deliverables that solve modern branding and advertising problems
- Conceive, research, refine and pitch integrated ad campaigns that utilize longstanding as well as modern (i.e. programmatic, dark social, VR/AR, voice activation, etc.) components
- Develop work for a portfolio that demonstrates fluency relevant to the future of advertising
Various—lecture, guest speakers, online research, reading assignments, course assignments, etc.
Required Textbooks, Readings and Websites:
The course will utilize two books—one first printed in 1965 and the other in 2015. They are both remarkably useful when plotting the future of advertising. Both books should be available in the MCAD Book Store. You can also find new and used print copies and Kindle editions via Amazon.
- Paid Attention – Innovative Advertising for a Digital World by Faris Yakob
- A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young
In addition to the books, we will also reference various blogs, news articles and opinion pieces found online. I’ll share links with you when appropriate.
Please download and look through Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends Report (http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends).
And please bookmark the One Club’s online archive of over 250k iconic ads (since 1991) http://www.oneclub.org/awards/theoneshow/.
Finally, please subscribe to the following six email newsletters. Each will provide useful and frequent insights and information relevant to the course.
CB Insights (https://www.cbinsights.com/)
Launch Ticker (https://www.launchticker.com/)
Scott Galloway’s No Mercy/No Malice via L2 (https://www.l2inc.com/email-signup)
Bob Hoffman – Type A (http://www.typeagroup.com/)
The Prepared – curated by Spencer Wright (https://theprepared.org/newsletter)
Neil Perkin’s Only Dead Fish (http://www.onlydeadfish.co.uk/)
Class #1 – Course Overview / Welcome to the Future
Meet each other, set expectations, review course calendar, guest lecture schedule, textbooks and resources. Let’s also review the world we live and work in, as a means of clarifying the role of marketing and advertising—i.e. The way we own and buy products and services has changed, which means why and how we market and advertise changes, too. And what about the purpose of brands? Nevermind globalization and the transparent flow of diverse and niche cultures (Despacito, anyone?) and their impact on the business of ideas. Finally, let’s discuss the core skills advertising agencies (and their clients) need in 2017 and beyond.
Class #2 – The New Infrastructure — Data, Location Awareness/Connectivity, Artificial Intelligence & Automation
Let’s dig into everything Don Draper and Peggy Olson never imagined. We work now in a world of ideas where data informs everything. A world that is “always on,” connecting faster and contextually aware. A world that automates and optimizes more and more of marketing. And a world where AI threatens the role of Idea Person. How do all these forces impact advertising and the people who work in it?
Class #3 – Social Media Platforms, Circa 2017 & the Rise of Dark Social
In less than a decade we’ve witnessed a global communications transformation that’s profoundly affected advertising: the rise of empowered individuals and digital communities. Let’s review how the evolving world of social—sharing, influence, ratings, creation tools—impact brand building and modern advertising strategy and ideas. And we’ll review the wealth of platform best practices to understand how they seek to engage and assist marketers and agencies.
Class #4 – Storytelling in Multiple Dimensions — How Ideas Come to Life across Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 3D Holograms
Let’s dig into all of the ways in which brands and advertising ideas are moving off the printed page and untouchable screen and into our lives to provide a digital lens on the physical world.
Class #5 – Conversation Design—Advertising Through Voice Activation, Chatbots & Podcasting
Let’s talk about how we research for, strategize/architect and develop brand strategies and ideas when the medium is conversation. Let’s also talk about the recent rise of audio storytelling as a means of brand building via podcasting.
Class #6 – Influence & Truth & Everything is PR
Is Word of Mouth the most authentic form of advertising? Let’s discuss how branding and modern advertising works with influencers and across shifting contexts (i.e. within social networks, next to fake news and extremist publications, etc). We’ll also review how public relations and social sharing have transformed the way we strategize, define and produce advertising ideas so they generate even more attention.
Class #7 – Course Assignment Briefing
Class #8 – Agencies of All Shapes and Sizes, Circa 2017
Let’s compare and contrast how ad agencies are evolving and differentiating beyond Independent, Network and In-House (i.e. 3M, Hogarth, Best Buy), to include Consultant agencies (i.e. Deloitte+Heat), Social Platform “in-house” agencies (i.e. Facebook, Google), and Publisher agencies (i.e. Buzzfeed, Brainjolt).
Class #9 – Campaign Architecture – Business Definition and Marketing Strategy, Circa 2017
Let’s dig into all the brand work that must occur before modern creative briefs are written and ideas are developed. What critical analysis must occur to define and transform business challenges into opportunities which marketing and advertising can affect? Some say, “everything (in business) is (now) marketing.” If this is true, how does technology, data, digital targeting and marketing automation influence business operations, logistics, pricing, governance, etc.? In addition, let’s bring our own digital lives into consideration. How do our own biases and digital consumption affect how we perceive target audiences as well as marketing challenges and opportunities?
Class #10 – Media Buying & Technology & Measurement, Circa 2017
How are advertising ideas distributed, and how do we know if they work? Let’s focus on client-side and third-party marcom stacks (DMP, databases, etc.), advertising measurement as well as social listening, site and influencer measurement, always-on dashboards, etc. How are brands measured in this evolving age of digital? If you’re agency-side, how do you explain all of this to your boss/client?
Class #11 – Creative Briefing & Selling Ideas, Circa 2017
Let’s discuss the business and process of developing and selling modern ideas. How has the briefing process evolved since A Technique for Producing Ideas, and later, “A Fisherman’s Guide” (inside Truth Lies and Advertising) by Jon Steel? How do we effectively differentiate briefing for conversation platform ideas versus traditional one-way media ideas? What methodologies and tools have evolved to enable the briefing process?
Class #12 – Course Assignment Check In + The Modern Making-Of, i.e. Rapid Prototyping
First, let’s review your progress on the Course Assignment. Then, let’s get pragmatic and discuss the apps, tools and processes which enable modern strategic development, creative ideation, production and distribution.
Class #13 – The Business of Digital & the Future of Advertising
Let’s take a deeper dive into how Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook (Galloway’s “the Four Horsemen”) have become gigantic corporations and brands themselves. What does all this mean for the business of brands and advertising ideas?
Class #14 – Pitch Day: Course Assignment Due
Present your work to the class and potential visiting guests.
Class #15 – Wrap Up: Living in the Future of Advertising
Recap the semester’s topics, assignments and guest speakers. Make up assignment presentations as needed. Let’s focus on your path forward—what will you do next to prepare for and/or engage in the future of advertising?
(For those keeping score at home, you might question the delay in discussing strategy (#9) and briefing (#11). I believe it’s better to review the myriad forces impacting advertising (Infrastructure to VR to podcasting, et al) first, then dive into the agency world and their processes.)