As an undergrad, I studied my passion: advertising. When I presented my team’s plan for the client of the National Student Advertising Competition, we arranged a trial run in front of our graduate school’s Executive MBA marketing class.
In the Q&A that followed, one question caught my attention. “So what’s my ROI?” He paused and added, “That means return on investment.” I was about to roll my eyes and tell him, “This is advertising. We don’t do that,” but I stopped myself and wondered, why don’t we look at ROI?
In my experience with college courses, competitions, and internships, advertising students are not expected to understand how advertising affects sales and how to efficiently and effectively use advertising dollars or even to have a cursory education in business. When it comes to studying copywriting, graphic design, strategy, or media relations, a young advertising professional is encouraged to focus on cultivating writing, critical thinking, and design skills, but not necessarily grasping the overall picture of why companies need advertising in the first place.
Now as an MBA student, I’ve realized that advertising and business can be compared to the differences between the left brain and right brain. Yes, there are some broad theories that cross over, but much of it is separated.
Left Brain: business valuation, bargaining power of suppliers, gross profit margin, distribution costs, return on investment, inventory turnover, scope of operations …
Ok, so that’s business.
Right Brain: brand values, magazine ads, tag lines, storyboards, Super Bowl commercials, consumer psychographics, social media engagement, in-store activation …
So that’s advertising.
But what about everything else in between?
As a student, I’ve been taught to obey these boundaries from the beginning. Among my peers, this idea of business and marketing intersecting is seen as foreign, off limits, and left to C-suite executives, but as young professionals, we need to learn not only how we meet clients’ needs but also how to drive results and affect their bottom line.
I recently shadowed at an agency with a group of students from California where our guide told us about the work his team was doing for a client, which I’ll keep anonymous. Despite that client’s profitability, it was, by nature of the industry, extremely hated among its customers. The agency’s team traveled around the USA, getting to know the customers and studying every facet of the industry, and they came back to the client with a shocking proposal. They recommended that the client offer a certain additional service to benefit the reputation of its customer relations. One girl in our tour group raised her hand tentatively and asked, “Um, can you do that?”
We were all surprised that an agency could persuade a business to alter their service offerings or provide such a beneficial and intentional level of meticulously crafted service.
Now back to left brain vs. right brain.
So what’s everything else in between?
It’s GREAT ADVERTISING, and it’s BOTH-BRAINED.
In advertising courses, we are not taught to analyze a client’s revenue, income, or return on their investment. However, because of my internship at Amusement Park and my own research about the industry, I’ve realized that young advertising professionals were only learning half of the story. At Amusement Park, I’ve witnessed professionals, working in the real world, as they analyze their clients’ needs and determine areas for growth. With a business-first perspective and expertise in marketing, we help them to align their values, increase sales, drive ROI, boost brand perception, and ultimately grow their business via both-brained strategies.
I recommend that others in internships and entry level positions do the same and suggest that advertising professionals and mentors encourage curiosity for both-brained advertising in their mentees. Seeing this integration of objectives within an internship position is helping me on my path to hopefully become a more well-rounded advertising executive in the future, resulting in a broader perspective that I will take with me throughout my career.