How and when did you decide you were interested in a career in advertising?
When I first started undergrad at the University of Southern Mississippi, I was like many other college freshmen in that I was proudly declaring an “undecided” major. At the time, all I knew was that I didn’t enjoy (ie, wasn’t very good at) math or science. Unfortunately, this rules out a lot of majors. Towards the end of my second semester, a friend of mine was telling me about her communication and advertising classes and they sounded right up my alley. Without hesitation, I declared the next day and began my advertising path in the Fall. Luckily, my risk paid off and I fell in love with advertising, and have yet to look back.
Can you tell us about an interesting experience you’ve had at school or in your career that can help describe to others what it’s like working in advertising?
There isn’t a specific experience I can think of that would help describe working the in advertising world, but there a lot of things I’ve learned over the past year that may serve as good advice. First, meet your deadlines. Beat your deadlines! Just like a due date for homework in school, you will always have due dates that absolutely must be met, no exceptions, no excuses. Second, don’t take it personally. There are going to be more than a few times when someone doesn’t like your idea, and people in advertising are not always good at sugar coating things. If someone has an opinion, trust that they are going to share it, good or bad. Third, be good at the little things and bigger things will come your way. Being new to the industry, there might be aspects of your job that you’re asked to do that you don’t enjoy, or may think you’re above doing. Do them anyway. There may small clients with tiny budgets who want the world. Do everything you can to give it to them. Everyone has to “pay their dues” at some point, but know that if you work hard for your clients and your company, they will notice and be thankful, and you will get the credit you deserve.
Where are you from, how has this shaped you, and can you tell us about life in New Orleans?
I was born in Florida and moved around a little bit, but spent most of my life living in Birmingham, AL. My mom’s entire family lives there, so it was great growing up with lots of people around all the time. My family is what helped shape me the most, and also what I miss the most about living in Birmingham. People are very quick to judge when they think of Alabama, but I am proud of where I came from and the way I was raised.
Life in New Orleans, however, is very different than anything I have experienced. I have never seen so much pride and love for a city from the people that live there. For the most part if you are from Louisiana, New Orleans especially, you were raised here, you’re family is here, you went to school here, and there is nowhere better to live in the world. If you ever leave, you will come back. People here have fun and never take life too seriously. Although New Orleans is a big city, everyone knows everyone, and if you’re new then someone is always ready to welcome you with a handshake and a smile. It’s a place that many people may not understand, but I have grown to love it and can’t see myself anywhere else right now.
Do you think it was more nature or more nurture that has made you, you?
I think many people would agree that in most situations, everything is a little bit of both. I would like to believe that drive and ambition are simply in my genes, but I know my upbringing also played a large role in this. My mother has always been an extremely hard worker and taught my brother and me from a very early age to be the same way. We were always pushed to do well in school, and to excel at any sport or hobby we may have been into at the time. Then one day, it just became easy to strive for the best and to want to do it for myself, rather than because I was being directed.
As for my personality, it is most definitely nature! It amazes me sometimes to spend time with individual members of my family and see the constant similarities in each of us. From my eighty-two year old grandfather down to my ten year old cousin, not only do the physical features travel strong, but the goofy laughs, love for travel, and strong loyalties can be found in each one of us.
What was your favorite commercial from this year’s Super Bowl?
I hate to say I wasn’t overly excited about any ads this year, but I, like the rest of America, highly enjoyed the adorable Darth Vadar commercial from Volkswagen. I don’t know that tons of Volkswagens are going to be sold as a result, but you can’t deny the huge viral power that this commercial created. I do, however, wish that it had been for a Jetta instead of a Passat. Like, Return of the Jetta...? I love puns.
In your opinion, what movie either needs to be remade or has yet to be made?
This may be a place where my creative mind fails me. I absolutely love movies and can quote many of them from beginning to end, but I could not fathom creating one. At least not on the spot. Off the top of my head, The Goonies, The Princess Bride, and The Last Starfighter are some of my all time favorites. They were a huge love during my childhood and I could still watch them a million more times and not get tired of them. I think a lot of remakes these days are really great, but when it comes down to it, it’s the cheesy effects, characters, and graphics that make the original of any movie so great. Yes, the new Star Wars movies are great, but you can’t help but remember where you were and how you felt when you saw those opening credits scrolling across the screen for the very first time.
What is your take on the digital and social movement, related to advertising?
I think it’s truly amazing what capabilities are available to us right now through computers and smart phones, and I can’t imagine what more is to come in the next five, ten, or fifty years. The digital and social movements have revolutionized the way we communicate with each other and interact with the brands we love. Information is accessible at any second, and everyone is fighting to be at the top of your list. My issue is that many companies are just jumping on the bandwagon of every social media, even if it isn’t relevant to their brand. We have more options than ever to get our message out there, but that doesn’t mean you should just throw something up on each one just because it’s popular. I think brands need to be more conscientious of who their audience really is and the messages they are looking for. No, Twitter is not applicable for everyone. Nor is Facebook or Flickr or Digg. Choose what is most relevant for your client and the information they have to offer. Be strategic with sharing your brand and you are guaranteed to save time and money, and for the campaign to be much more successful.
Why and how did you decide to pursue a Master’s degree in advertising?
I have always enjoyed school, so I think a part of me always knew I would stay in as long as I could. And at the time, the slump in the economy probably helped me realized that I wasn’t ready to take on the “real world” just yet. Teaching is also something that has always been at the back of my mind, and I figured getting a Master’s degree was a good start down that road.
I also had a professor at Southern Miss, Dr. Keith Johnson, who pushed me very hard to do big things while in school. I think he really believed in me and my potential, and wouldn’t let me settle for second best. When I first discussed graduate school, he helped me list out the best schools and programs and immediately started writing recommendation letters. He was a big motivating factor in my going to Texas, and I will always be thankful for his tough – and very stressful – classes in undergrad, and his patience and diligence in helping me succeed.
There’s still a divide between advertising and public relations in the real world. What are your thoughts about the future of this division?
Although I think the two are closer to each other than perhaps in the past years, I also think that there will forever and always be a divide here. There is always going to be difference in the way in which each job is conducted, and the way information is presented from each side. Advertising will always be working for paid space, where public relations will always be working for free space. You can express more creativity with advertising where you need to express more restraint with PR. Advertising professionals will always think they are more relevant and talented than PR professionals and vise versa. The list of differences could go on. With trouble in the economy, PR has become more desirable. With the influx of social media outlets, advertising has become more desirable. They may get closer to one another in the future, and as much as one should be working in harmony with the other to create more successful brands, I think there will always be a division here.
Do you miss Texas and what advice can you give to others considering advertising life at UT?
Do I miss Austin? Yes, every day. Austin is an amazing city with so much life and culture. If Austin were ten hours closer to my family, I guarantee I would still be living there. Anyone living there should take full advantage of everything Austin has to offer; the music, the people, the scenery, the food…
Do I miss Texas, the school? Yes, every day. Although I was there less than 2 years, I made some amazing connections and friendships that will be with me forever. I learned what I wanted to do in advertising, which wasn’t what I thought it was when I first started the program. If you try a little bit of everything, you might be surprised at what you end up loving. School was the biggest part of my life for 23 years, and UT was the final chapter. At least until I decide to get my PhD and teach…
Do I miss Texas, the state? Eh...I am definitely southern girl through and through, but there is just nothing like the summer heat in Central Texas.