Professor Elena Andro is an SMU alumna who is now teaching ADV 2342 Strategic Brand Management 1 for the Temerlin Advertising Institue. Professor Andro has been Manager of Communications for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) for nine years and has experience on both the agency and client side.
What made you want to become a professor?
First, I love SMU and my craft. Being able to return to campus was amazing and to impact tomorrow’s advertising professionals was a perfect way to give back to the university that gave me my start in advertising and marketing. Second, my mother was a university professor in Mexico so I was familiar with what it took to teach from watching her prepare and run her courses. Third, I’d guest lectured for SMU’s MBA program about the importance of public relations in marketing campaigns. This allowed me to “test the water” and I found that I really enjoyed teaching. Lastly, I’ve been a mentor many times at various organizations, and was often involved in the Dallas Advertising League’s Student Tour program. Also, advising people on their career path is something that comes naturally to me. My view is you spend so much time at work, you should really enjoy what you do.
What is your background in the subject you teach?
My career has always had branding as its cornerstone. I began my career in an ad agency my senior year. Professor Chip Besio brought me into his agency to assist with some clients and I loved being in the middle of exciting projects. I then interned at the McKone & Company agency three days a week my last semester, and then went to work for them my first three years out of college. I then worked client side for many years. Then I had my own agency for six years where I had the pleasure of working with Quaker State, Nissan, Sprint and Capital One. For five years I was a bank marketing executive for both Capital One and Wachovia. Then I joined Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
What has been your favorite memory teaching for TAI so far?
Since most students take notes on their laptops, it is easy to wonder if they are engaged in the lecture. My favorite memories are when students would raise their hand to add something that they’d spontaneously researched on their laptop about the topic being discussed. Now that is engagement! It’s very exciting to see that happening.
What is your favorite part about being a professor?
I love the creative brainstorming and ideation that happens organically in class when you are talking about real, to-the-moment branding situations – such as all the brands impacted by the shooting in Vegas. It is also very valuable for me to have the time with the students that represent a very attractive customer segment for the brands I work with.
What made you want to go into advertising? How did you get where you are in your career?
Advertising seems to have been in my blood. My siblings and I started businesses when we were in elementary school and developing the “pitch” and “product” were fun for me. What really helped my career was interning at agencies my junior and senior year. I cannot stress how important it is for students to get real, hands-on experience as it makes your school work better and you stand out from other graduates once you have your diploma.
My career also benefitted from the fact that I was game to do advertising for product categories that other students did not find interesting. For example, my first ad agency specialized in building products – paint, faucets, laminates, etc. It may sound a bit drab, but we were working with magazines such as Interiors, Architectural Record and Remodeling. It was a lot like fashion, with awesome photo shoots, rock star architects, trips to New York and such.
Another strong recommendation I have for TAI students is to get involved in the American Advertising Federation’s Ad2 club. To this day I still treasure and benefit from the connections I made when I was a student and on the Board of this organization. I later became the president of the Dallas Ad League (now AAF Dallas) which again proved invaluable in my career.
How have you seen the advertising industry change since you started?
Media is so hyper fragmented now! You used to be able to do great campaigns that targeted large segments with a relatively small number of creative executions. Now you cannot. And budgets have not kept up with the exponential number of executions needed to reach similarly-sized audience groups.
How do you incorporate aspects from your work into your teaching?
Students don’t often think about government agencies doing branding. So, it is eye opening for them to consider how DART must compete with the private vehicle and now Uber/Lyft for their share of “transportation occasions.” And because I’ve worked in a variety of industries (at ad agencies) and corporations (as a marketing executive), I’ve got many case studies from my own experience from which to draw from. It is also helpful that my career has been almost solely in Dallas as I’ve got contacts to draw from to bring in guest lecturers who can provide another “voice” from our advertising industry.
I have a Bearded Dragon lizard that likes to ride around in an RC truck, insists on organic grape tomatoes, loves to swim and sleep on top of my cats. I also married my SMU beau five year ago after reconnecting via social media.