Executive Internship: TAI Graduate Student Noble Farr Reports after Two Weeks at Firehouse

I arrived at Firehouse bright-eyed and on the wrong floor. After finding the correct lobby, I was given a tour by Steve, an incredibly welcoming gentleman who I knew looked familiar but could not pinpoint exactly who he was. I’ll blame information overload and the absence of caffeine. Only after a 20 minute tour of Firehouse’s incredible office did I finally muster up the courage to ask, “And what is it you do, Steve?” To which he kindly and laughingly responded, “Oh—I’m the CEO.” *insert Homer Simpson backing into the bushes meme.

Now only one more misstep away from throwing myself down the proverbial fire-pole, I sat at my desk and took in the surroundings of my new home for the summer. Bobbleheads of celebrated employees lined a corner wall, countless agency awards were polished and reverberating excellence, and a mural of Lil’ Wayne equally encouraged and unsettled me from his perch as my next-desk neighbor. The agency’s mantra of “work hard, don’t be a dick’ was written on another wall, reminding me of both my favorite and only-known quote by Conan O’Brien: “Work hard, be really kind, and amazing things will happen to you.” Like all good agencies, Firehouse takes this a step further.

Most palpable in that moment, however, was a sense of the agency’s powerful culture. A culture that is made up of so many unique and talented individuals that it has created a sub-culture of its own. All are welcomed and all are accepted, contingent, of course, on one’s willingness to spontaneously pause work for the ever-present (and incredibly competitively) foosball game.

Having been at Firehouse for only two weeks now, I am even more excited to continue working here. As a strategy intern, I’ve already been given so many exciting opportunities to research new clients and help work on creative briefs. Within the first week, I was pulled into

Noble Farr, SMU Graduate Student in Advertising
Noble Farr, SMU Graduate Student in Advertising

meetings where I felt welcomed yet often overwhelmed and undeserving to be in such an unfamiliar and real-stakes environment. I’ve learned that while one can excel in academics and think he knows a lot about the advertising industry, learning to put that knowledge into action can be difficult. Thankfully, that’s what internships are for: to find out what you like and don’t like, learn how to tap into the innate and learned abilities one’s been given, and to conquer (at least attempt to) the imposter syndrome that comes with being surrounded by so many experts in their fields.

I thought it appropriate to write myself a strategy brief to help me through this short summer at Firehouse. After all, writing briefs is my job. It consists of asking questions like, ‘What do I want to learn?’ ‘How can I best accomplish my goals?’ and ‘When I leave, how can I make sure my work has made a lasting and positive impact?’ I hope to find these answers along the way, but until then I’ll just keep bettering my strategy skills, improving my foosball game, and working to make Firehouse a Fire-home (had to drop a dad joke in there somewhere).

My first introduction to Firehouse was during an agency tour with Professor Peter Noble. I’m confident that without his and so many other TAI faculty members’ guidance, this summer would look a lot different. Now putting my degree into action, I’m reminded of all the late night group projects and extensive research papers I’ve worked on, and the professors who challenged us to develop our best, most authentic work. Going back to school to complete a master’s degree when most of your friends and peers are starting their careers is daunting, and I had my fair share of second thoughts. However, I distinctly remember walking out of my first class last fall and thinking to myself, “this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.” And that feeling is even more true today.

ALUMNI UPDATE: Leah Smith takes on role at the The Richards Group and is starting a PhD in Information Science

Since graduating with an MA in Advertising from the Temerlin Advertising Institute in 2018, Leah Smith has worked in a variety of digital marketing roles. She has done everything from social media, to content marketing, to search engine marketing, and communications. She recently accepted a new role as a Brand Manager for The Richards Group here in Dallas.

In addition, Leah has been accepted as a doctoral student at UNT for fall 2021 in the PhD in Information Science program which she is extremely excited (and nervous) for starting. Leah explained that, “I hope while there, I can apply my mixed background in journalism (BA in Journalism from SMU) and marketing/advertising in the research I undertake.”

According to Dr. Carrie La Ferle, “Leah will be a value add to the UNT doctoral program with her sold work experience, enthusiastic personality and quick to learn nature.” La Ferle went on to add, “Leah will bring fresh and impactful eyes as she works to merge her interests across communication, social media and critical media studies during her doctoral studies.”

Leah reports that, “I no doubt attribute my success and some of the opportunities I’ve had professionally to my time at SMU. I’ve been very intentional in trying to maintain relationships with professors and classmates. No matter what industry you’re in, relationship-building is critical. I also routinely lean back on former professors for their wisdom and wealth of knowledge. ”

Leah wrapped up her update by concluding, “While I will ALWAYS be a Mustang, I really look forward to this new chapter as a UNT Eagle.”

ALUMNI UPDATE: Leveraging Graduate Education in the Industry

Temerlin alumna Deja Sanders is a global account supervisor at TracyLocke’s Chicago office. She credits her experience in Temerlin’s graduate program with facilitating her pivot into the advertising industry. “Completing my M.A. at Temerlin in 2018 was hands-down the best decision for my career. Not only was I able to stretch myself academically, but I was also able to tap into a wealth of creative resources from the Dallas area and across the world,” she says.

Sanders also credits challenging conversations with professors and colleagues that taught her how to navigate the clients she manages today. “The care and commitment to TAI students and their professional development is something that I will always appreciate,” she says.

“When I reflect on the tools and theories taught throughout this program, I can honestly say that I deploy many of them on a day-to-day basis. Beyond client relationships and good creative, advertising at its foundation is a psychographic tool leveraged to communicate across communities. Understanding these communities and what makes them tick is where my educational training intersects with my day-to-day role,” Sanders adds. She cites Dr. Sid Muralidharan’s graduate course, Advertising as a Cultural Force, as an impactful learning experience. Sanders studied how advertisers represent and communicate authentically with multicultural and international audiences. She aspires to continue these studies through a Ph.D. in advertising; her goal is to increase research and identify additional tools of engagement for multicultural and international audiences.

FACULTY RESEARCH: Graduate Student Co-Authors Article with Temerlin Faculty

Dr. Sid Muralidharan, associate professor, and Dr. Carrie La Ferle, Marriott Endowed Professor of Ethics and Culture, have been researching the effectiveness of domestic violence messaging on bystander reporting. Last fall, Dr. Sid invited Temerlin graduate student Lauren Howard to join their research for a third study exploring domestic violence prevention messaging.

The first two studies explore the outward-facing emotional response to ad messaging. The first study, published in the Journal of Advertising, compares guilt and shame ad appeals. A subsequent study published in the Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing focuses on opposing emotional ad appeals – shame versus hope. Between both these studies, hope is found to be the more effective emotion in motivating bystanders to intervene. The most recent study, which Howard co-authored alongside Dr. Sid and Dr. La Ferle for Social Marketing Quarterly, pivots inward to compare the effects of guilt and hope messaging in relation to “independent self-construal,” the extent to which people view themselves as separate and distinct from others. Those with high independent self-construal are more apt to promote themselves positively and tend to be driven and have high self-esteem. In contrast, people with low independent self-construal tend to be less ambitious with lower self-esteem.  Findings reveal that hope messaging engages both low and high independent self-construal, whereas guilt messaging pushes those with low self-construal to distance themselves from potential bystander intervention.

“Through this independent study, I learned a lot about how we are still facing the impact of patriarchal societies’ dominance in many cultures worldwide,” says Howard. “This is important as it affects how people see, feel, and act upon domestic violence and the advertisements associated with bystander intervention. It is crucial that advertisers pay attention to what emotion resonates with consumers and encourages action when creating ads to promote bystander intervention.”

Temerlin faculty engage graduate students through a variety of work such as case studies, primary and secondary research, and agency internships to ensure students have exposure to the vast array of disciplines within the advertising industry. Learn more about Temerlin’s graduate program here.

COURSE HIGHLIGHT: Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship

The Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship graduate course leads students to identify the agents of change in the industry, defines responsibility in the advertising field, and demonstrates how responsible advertising evolves into an agent of cultural change.

Dr. Sid teaches this course using the case-study method so that students learn the challenges and benefits of implementing a CSR strategy for a brand. More importantly, students apply studied concepts to a marketing problem faced by a real-world client. He explains: “personally, I enjoy teaching this class because social responsibility ties in with my research agenda (green advertising, domestic violence, etc.) as well as TAI’s mission of ‘Better Advertising, Better World.’ Furthermore, to teach students ‘strategic’ CSR and show how social responsibility can benefit the brand (not just financially), as well as its stakeholders, is truly satisfying. At one point CSR was a point-of-difference but now it has become the norm. However, the initiative’s success largely depends on how to integrate social responsibility objectives with that of the business. Trying to find that balance through unique ideas on a shoe-string budget is challenging but seeing the students’ creativity shine through the entire process is a great experience.”

Follow Dr. Sid on LinkedIn for his latest research in this field.

Click here to learn more about our graduate program.

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: TAI Student Kayla Griffis Speaks About Her Academic Experiences and Achievements

I am a junior majoring in Advertising with a specialization in Digital Media Strategy with minors in Graphic Design and Spanish. I’m also participating in the 4+1 SMU Advertising program that allows me to take undergraduate and graduate classes simultaneously in order to obtain bachelor’s and master’s advertising degrees in five years. During the 2018-2019 academic year, I received the following honors:

  • 2019 Dallas Area Alliance for Women in Media Irene Runnels-Paula McStay College Scholarship
  • 2019 Washington Media Scholars Foundation Media Fellows Scholarship
  • SMU Pi Beta Phi Foundation Scholarship
  • SMU Decima Chapter of Mortar Board National Honors Society
  • Finalist for 2019 AAF Vance and Betty Lee Stickell Internship
  • Finalist for 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program

I applied for these scholarships, internships, and honors societies at the end of the fall semester and was extremely nervous during the application processes because of the programs’ prestige and competitiveness. Managing deadlines, requesting letters of recommendation from professors and mentors, staying on top of daily homework assignments, and studying for tests was no easy feat. Nevertheless, I was determined to submit my applications, in case I wasn’t accepted as a junior, to refine my skills and experiences before becoming a senior.

When I was first notified that I received the 2019 Washington Media Scholars Foundation Media Fellows Scholarship, I was shocked! I couldn’t believe it until I spoke with a representative of the foundation who told me that my application was impressive and well-received. And while this was surprising, receiving two other scholarships–the 2019 Dallas Area Alliance for Women in Media Irene Runnels-Paula McStay College Scholarship and Pi Beta Phi Foundation at SMU Scholarship–was even more overwhelming. Additionally, qualifying for the 2019 AAF Vance and Betty Lee Stickell Internship and the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program were both amazing opportunities, though I ultimately decided to participate in the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program because of its focus to promote inclusion and diversity in the advertising industry. I am very passionate about this. My induction into the SMU Decima Chapter of Mortar Board National Honors Society is a privilege in itself and I am grateful to be a part of this organization that recognizes leadership, community service, and scholarship among students. As a 2019 MAIP Fellow, I will work at Digitas in Boston as a Media Buying and Planning intern this upcoming summer and am extremely excited.

SMU Advertising has provided me with amazing opportunities to network with professionals and connect with my peers as we prepare for future careers in the advertising industry. I hope to help foster a world where minorities are celebrated and accurately represented. I believe that I will make a difference in the industry, as a voice for minorities, and receiving these honors is just the beginning.

Kayla Griffis

SXSW: A Psychologist and an Ad Guy Walk into a Bar

Palmer McGraw and Hilary Monroe

Dan Monheit, Strategy Director at Hardhat agency, and Dr. Melissa Weinberg, Psychologist with LifePsych, used five famous advertisements from the past twenty years to illustrate the intersection of Psychology and Advertising. Given all of the research done in the field of psychology regarding behavioral economics, Monheit asks strategist to consider, “how can we use all of this information to create better ads?”

Budweiser’s “Wassup” ad that ran at the 2000 Super Bowl utilized the strategy of vernacular jack to attach the brand to a phrase. By repeating the phrase over and over again in the ad, they attached the feeling of wanting a Budweiser beer to that phrase. The popularity, and utter hilariousness, of this iconic add caused the phrase “Wassup?” to be used over one million times a day, making every utterance a subtle add.

P&G’s 2010 U.S. Olympic ad entitled “Thank you Mom” was enormously successful despite the short time frame they had to make it and the extensive sub-brands they needed to incorporate into the spot. However, by creating content that resonated with audiences on an emotional level they perfectly crafted a commercial that evoked what Monheit and Weinberg dub the memory availability bias. This bias essentially means that it is easier to recall content that is both emotional and personal, so ads should work to create advertisements as such to enhance recall.

TAC, an Australian safety initiative, created a campaign to lower car fatalities to zero. This advertisement was successful because they implemented the framing effect. This explains that they way that we interpret information has little to do with the information itself. It is how the information is communicated that makes us engage with it.

In 2006, Apple created a campaign that was enormously successful because they utilized the peak end rule. This strategy explains that judgement of experience is not how we felt during it, but how we felt at the end of it. Monheit and Weinber suggest that strategists pick 2 or 3 key points and place the most important at the end because that is what people will remember.

Finally, in 2007 Unicef created a campaign which drew on the licensing effect. This theory explains how we seek balance with our decisions. It is why once we accomplish something challenging, such as finishing a huge school assignment or meeting another personal goal, we give ourselves permission to indulge or, in other words, “treat yourself!”

SXSW: Neuroscience Proves Advertising’s Effectiveness

Conrad Li and Lauren Howard

“Great creative is about the gut feel and neuroscience proves it to be real.”

As advertisers we assume that great creative pieces will automatically result in high-recall and brand recognition. Human brains are decidedly lazy and have to be working all the time to gather and understand information, which means that advertisers need to work hard to make both the advertising message interesting and memorable.

In order for brands to be successful with their advertisements, they need to be understanding of the different ways to connect with consumers. They need to reduce the cognitive load that consumers are experiencing through their advertisements so that viewers don’t feel overwhelmed, but still understand the idea and message of the ad. Brands need to focus on three kinds of thinking to be successful and reduce the cognitive load: Brand Kind, Behavior Kind, and most importantly Brain Kind.

Brand Kind is the reality or relationship consumers have with brands; they are looking for “friends with benefits” relationship where they get what they want from the brand without too much effort. Behavior kind deals with the ability and opportunity for ads to bring a change in behavior such as making a purchase. Brain Kind is the most important one for brands to focus on and it deals with the visual shortcuts that allow brands to connect consumers using as many senses as possible. When ads only use one sense to reach consumers, there is not as much engagement, recognition, resonance, or relevance.

The speakers throughout this session showed that they used neuroscience to measure the key metrics stated above. Some of the world’s most memorable and well performing ads rated highly in engagement, but sometimes had the lowest brand recall. By using neuroscience, the presenters were trying to find a sweet spot between creativity and memory. Since memory is a finite resource, creatives need to find the best way to garner as much of it as possible. They believe that better experiences and engagement of senses can help with brand recall, but too much will lead to cognitive overload.

Brands that use creative ways to create moving ads (such as video) and experiential setups have the highest recognition, resonance, and relevance. Ads such as Sony’s Bravio Balls and Apple’s 1984 have high recall and recognition because of the ways they engage the brain. In the end, ads that have great creative elements that involve using different senses and direct brand messaging are the ones that stay with us the longest.

Navigating the Waters of Data-Driven Storytelling at SXSW Interactive 2018

Temerlin Advertising Institute graduate students Jessica Phillips and Catherine Scholl

Complexity, Complexity, Complexity

In an enlightening talk about data-driven storytelling, we heard from a panel of professionals about how they combine art and scientific data to execute seamless storytelling in their companies. The panel consisted of Renee Lightner, User Experience Technologist at Viacom, Russell Goldenberg, Editor at Polygraph / The Pudding, and Alex Simoes, CTO at Datawheel. Each member of the panel provided unique insight into perspectives and paradigms within data-driven storytelling through the lens of each of their respective disciplines.

Lightner opened by explaining the importance of online versus print graphics. Online graphics allow users to see the full picture and interact with the content, allowing for a better experience. A strategy she keyed in on was “complexity,” repeating a visual over and over so the reader grasps the content. Additionally, she said it’s important to allow the opportunity for the reader to explore the data on their own. Graphics should inform the reader while still allowing room for them to explore and take in the information at their own time in their own way.

Goldenberg explained the process that The Pudding goes through when providing content.

  • Start with an idea. Collect data. Analyze. Present.

The first three phases explore, while guidance is the final outcome. Great data does not matter – unless, it can be explained with a great guide. As we enter a world of AI with more data and more accurate data, consumers will be overwhelmed if it is not curated in meaningful ways.

Simoes’ approach to storytelling integrates data, extracts and matches entities and indicators, and builds integrated stories. Entities can be, for example, Los Angeles or coal mining, while the indicators within these categories can be something like exports or employment. Together, this information leads to integrated stories on the economy, education, health, etc. The outcome must be aggregated data that is easy to read, interactive, and entertaining. These three ideas seem to be a central theme to creating rich storytelling.

This panel was just one of so many incredible talks that we have attended this week. The atmosphere is absolutely electric as people immerse themselves in SXSW Interactive and all Austin has to offer.

There is diversity at SXSW Interactive 2018. Yet, it is more of the same.

The United States, Australia, Brasil, Mexico, china, Indonesia, Belgium, Great Britain, Iceland, Canada, Portugal, Italy, France, Turkey, Poland, The Netherlands, and Argentina.

What do all these countries have in common? For the next few days, representatives from each country are occupants of a single room at the South by Southwest Interactive trade show in Austin, Texas. 

SMU graduate students Christopher Calhoon and James Williams explored the SXSW Interactive Trade show and discovered that nearly every country was at the show offering a similar mix of products. Tech ruled, with emphasis on demonstrations of different realities (xR) including VR, AR and MR (mixed reality).

 

PhotoBloomAR is an interactive print platform that allows photos to come to life with movement and sound. Basically, they’re a Shutterfly for videos. The demo was a photo of a dog that when viewed through the app came to life as a video of the dog licking ice cream. 

After doing a few laps around the trade show floor and spending a few days here, we did not find one killer app, groundbreaking technological breakthrough or “paradigm shift” to come out of this year’s SXSW. Along with the country booths promoting a country’s technical abilities for business, there were many booths from biotech and medical tech companies promoting various products and services, but each seeed to be applications of current technology.

One fun idea from a startup based here in Austin is a sock subscription service called Sock Club. They started small by curating socks from other labels, and soon decided that they wanted to focus on their own manufacturing. Now all of Sock Club’s socks are designed in Austin, and the company has CSR at heart by controlling the entire production process, sourcing high-quality cotton, following eco-friendly processes, pay their workers are a living wage. 

While there were many countries represented on the floor and many languages being heard at the festival, the products being featured at the show are becoming more similar, competing on incremental improvements of already advanced technologies. Funny enough, this is where branding has it greatest power. When products have similar attributes, messages and brands become greater points of differentiation.