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W&L to Host Conference on Advertising and the Liberal Arts

As far as Washington and Lee University business administration professor Amanda Bower is concerned, a liberal arts education provides the very best preparation for a career in advertising and its related fields.

To prove her point, Bower is bringing about a dozen Washington and Lee alumni who are currently working in advertising and marketing back to campus to share their experiences with W&L students in the first annual AdLib Conference, to be held on March 29 and 30, 2012.

AdLib stands for Liberal Arts in Advertising. Bower conceived the conference and is working with John Jensen, assistant dean of W&L’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, to stage the two-day event.

“We want students from first years to seniors who are interested, or think they might be, to come and learn about the possibilities and maybe be inspired,” said Bower. “There will be something of value for everyone, including people who are trying to figure out what their major will be.”

One of the aims of the conference is to demonstrate to students the value of a liberal arts education for a career in advertising, marketing and related fields such as digital media, social media and mobile technology.

“A liberal arts education gives students the structure they need to know how to think, so when a new product comes along they know what to do with it, how to think about it,” she said. “For example, mobile phones are changing how people talk to each other, how they shop, where they shop, when they shop. Those are the kinds of things that a sociologist or an anthropologist would be best qualified to study. Advertising requires a sort of culture junkie-ness where you’re interested in all aspects of what’s going on in culture, and understanding how information spreads.”

According to Bower, students interested in theater, creative writing and other majors will find the conference useful. “We will have alumni at the conference from ad-related fields representing different majors, because you don’t have to be a business major to go into advertising,” she said. “Advertising is not what people think it is. It’s not just making an ad and putting it on TV like you see in ‘Mad Men.’ Advertising today is more about consumer engagement, involvement and participation. It’s about how consumers help make brands, how they play with a brand and have fun with it. So it requires a diverse skill set.”

The conference includes panels that will discuss certain themes:

  • Career Navigation Panels will inform students at all stages of their careers at W&L about the timing of appropriate activities and the expectations of the job market. Additionally, alumni will advise students on opportunities to pursue during their four years at W&L.
  • “Welcome to the Advertising World” will examine the types of careers, agencies and communications available—what’s traditional, what’s cutting edge and how the differences are being resolved. Students will see agency reels, learn about agency culture and hear about how familiar campaigns were formed.
  • Career Development Workshops will provide small-group feedback from alumni to help participating students better package and present their resumes, cover letters, job interviews and networking skills.

In addition, alumni will talk about their own careers. For example, the keynote speaker is John Zamoiski ’74, who started his career as an advance man for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey, worked on tours for musical artists and Broadway shows, developed strategies for corporate-sponsorship promotion, chaired the Promotion Marketing Association and founded three award-winning agencies.

“He’s really quite a guy and was very helpful in getting this conference off the ground,” said Bower. “All the alumni are really excited to come back to W&L, and a lot of them are young people who are doing fantastic things.”

Over the years, Bower has occasionally brought W&L alumni back to campus to advise students on how to prepare for the job market. On the last occasion, students filled the large room to capacity. “We had people sitting on the stairs,” said Bower. “And I thought this is something that’s really valuable. And then I had the idea to create the AdLib conference. We have multiple sponsors for this first year, so I think it’s going to be pretty successful.”

The schedule for Friday, March 30:

10:10 a.m.-11:05 a.m.:
1. “How to Get a Job in Advertising” in Hillel 101 with Professor Amanda Bower and Marty Ritter
2. “How to Get a Job in PR” in Stackhouse with Laura Hornbuckle
3. Casual Coffee Meet-and-Greet in Commons 116 with Don Hogle, Stephanie Mansey, Gerard McKee, and Rich Weinstein

11:15 a.m.-12:10 p.m.:
1. “How to Get a Job in Advertising” in Hillel 101 with Professor Amanda Bower and Marty Ritter
2. “Semiotics Reading and Using Cultural Codes in Advertising’ in Stackhouse with Don Hogle
3. Casual Coffee Meet-and-Greet in Commons 116 with Will Chamberlin, John Zamoiski, Laura Hornbuckle, and Brad Haugen

1:p.m.-1:50 p.m.:
Guest Speaker, Brad Haugen in Hillel 101

2 p.m.-3:25 p.m.:
“Welcome to the Ad World: Ad Orientation” in Stackhouse

3:35 p.m.-5 p.m.:
“How Media Has Changed the World of Advertising” in Stackhouse

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director