INDUSTRY CONNECTIONS: Professor Mark Allen’s Wildly Talented Students

Temerlin Advertising Institute’s Senior Lecturer Mark Allen shares his journey from high school art class to advertising professor on the We Are Next podcast. Allen found his love for advertising early on, established RedCape consultancy working with clients such as Martha Stewart, and currently feeds his passion for teaching wildly talented students at SMU.

In fact, one of Allen’s former wildly talented students, Elizabeth Entenman (B.A. Advertising 2010), introduced him to We Are Next founder Natalie Kim for the sit-down and sharing of advice learned over his varied career in the field of advertising. We Are Next is a resource for students and junior talent entering the advertising and marketing industry. This platform offers mentorships, a robust jobs board, and a variety of career advice-related content.

An interest in art, followed by a design course in high school, led Allen to major in drawing & painting and communication design and minor in advertising while in college. Post-graduation, Allen recounts leaving his creative work with recruiters at many notable agencies. He once found a note from an agency principal inside his book. Allen says, “I was so excited to see the note, but it read Nice book. Can’t tell if you’re an art director or copywriter.

He fondly retells this story to students as a critical moment in the progression of a career in advertising to help prepare them for the ups and downs that come along with building a reputation in the field. In the podcast, Allen recommends making creative portfolios stand out to potential employers by:

    1. Showing your best work.
    2. Making sure big ideas are supported by great craft.
    3. Showing a sense of restraint, whether it is in art direction, writing or the selection of products and clients. It shows a sense of maturity.
    4. Developing a good sense of taste over time by looking at lots of great work in Communication Arts annuals and The One Show, as well as Cannes and Clio award winners, to start. It is one of the most valuable things a student can do.
    5. Showcasing quality work over quantity. Recruiters usually skim portfolios, so make sure to highlight your strengths and capabilities. Also, include class or spec work that you are excited about, as it gives employers a sense for the types of clients that would be a good fit for your skills.
    6. Identifying and articulating problems, not only in a brief, but in brainstorming and day-to-day interactions. It helps to refine your craft and identifies you as somebody who can help other people, setting you up for director-level positions.

In advising students, Allen adds, “Look at ads and ask yourself questions such as, what is the problem? How did they solve it? When you see good work, identify what is compelling and deconstruct it a little bit. What makes it great? How and why did they make that?”

Listen to the full episode of the We Are Next Podcast.

See some of the creative awards won by SMU Advertising students at the 2020 National Student Show and the 2020 AAF Dallas awards show.

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.