Careers in the advertising industry heavily rely on networking opportunities; jobs are often found through referrals, former colleagues, and various industry events and organizations. The Meadows School of the Arts recently conducted research that revealed current students want to engage with fellow alumni but don’t always know how to make the first step. With traditional agency tours, internships, and industry events on pause, the need for student networking opportunities is critical. Recently, SMU launched a new platform, The SMU Network, to bridge the gap between current students and alumni.
Nikki Koenig graduated from Meadows in 2005 with her B.A. in Advertising. She founded Cykochik, a handbag, apparel and lifestyle company, from her dorm room during her undergraduate degree at SMU. Koenig used the tools acquired through her advertising courses to build a successful brand and quit her corporate job to focus full-time on Cykochik in 2013.
While Koenig was an SMU student, she also interned at Group Baronet, now MasonBaronet, an agency owned by Willie Baronet. Baronet, now the Stan Richards Professor in Creative Advertising at the Temerlin Advertising Institute, joined SMU in 2014. Over the past sixteen years, they have remained close; now she regularly speaks to his Intro to Creativity students, and guest critiques many of his creative courses and senior portfolios.
“Koenig has inspired many of my students with her edgy and illustrative designs and her passion for brand building with environmentally sustainable materials,” Baronet explains.
Koenig now serves on the Meadows 2050 Council to engage and connect Meadows alumni with students and serves as a mentor for The SMU Network.
Ask any advertising student (or professional) to name who’s on their career bucket list and most likely you’ll find Apple near the top. In the same league as brands like Nike, Volkswagen and Coke, the creative heavyweight from Cupertino consistently pumps out ads that are just as revolutionary as their products.
This September, Apple released its much-anticipated iPhone 11 Pro with a seriously beefed-up camera. To show off the device’s impressive new video capabilities, Apple asked TAI alumnus, Diego Contreras (’08), to create a short film for the official worldwide launch at the most recent Apple Keynote. With an iPhone 11 Pro and an extraordinary amount of talent, this is what he produced:
The new iPhone camera is incredible, no doubt. But one thing is even clearer to me: I still don’t expect my videos to look anywhere near this good—that is, unless Diego Contreras happens to be holding my iPhone.
I’ve kept up with Diego and his career ever since he was an art direction student of mine back in 2006–08. In addition to being a unique creative talent, he’s one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. Whether it’s dinner when we find ourselves in the same city or giving advice to my advertising students via Skype, he always makes time in his busy schedule to catch up and give back.
One of my fondest memories of Diego was how he always found a way to have fun while working so hard. When he returned to our program as a senior, I asked him to lead our Fall Startup Meeting—our annual gathering of creative students after returning from summer break. Diego kicked off the event with a crazy video he shot and edited of him and a few other creative students wreaking havoc at a local grocery store on motorized carts. He even hosted a goofy awards show, featuring trophies that he made himself. He gave me the Vidal Sassoon Best Hair Award, made from an empty bottle of shampoo that he spray-painted gold. It was very much like Diego’s own version of The Dundie Awards. The point here is that Diego spent a ton of time creating a bunch of completely unnecessary content and made-up awards in order to foster a culture of fun and creativity around hard work. More than 10 years later, I still see the effects of Diego’s contribution to the culture of fun, hard work and camaraderie in our program.
Marc Patrick entered his lecture from the middle of the audience, one of the many ways he sets the tone for a riveting performance. He led the track-and-field team as a student-athlete at SMU and has since moved on to lead global brand activations for 20+ years at The Nike World Headquarters, where Patrick served as Senior Director of Global Brand Communications. His journey began when he graduated from SMU in ’93 with degrees in Advertising and African American Studies.
On the night of November 6th, Temerlin Advertising Institute welcomed Patrick back to the Hilltop as the ExxonMobil Lecture Series guest speaker. It was a wonderful night, complete with networking, a moving lecture, and lively after-party, but this sold-out event was months in the making.
Two of my classmates (Meryn Kennedy and Susan Slaton) and I were selected to represent Temerlin Advertising Institute at The Nike World Headquarters this Summer. My preparation for the trip consisted of studying Patrick’s background in advertising, writing interview questions on conference calls with my partners, and reading Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog to better understand the origin of Nike’s brand.
Together we strolled through Nike’s campus, nestled in Beaverton, Oregon. Sprawling over 286 acres and 75 buildings, we ran (quite literally) into world-class athletes like Galen Rupp, before reaching Patrick’s office for our highly anticipated interview.
We were given a look inside the brand, his time at SMU, and how he navigated the ad industry before landing his role at Nike. This interview is featured in the Fall 2019 Meadows MPRINT Magazine, and the TAI podcast, but he saved the gems for the grand finale: his keynote at the Angelika Film Center, packed with SMU students, esteemed alumni, and advertising professionals from across the country.
Patrick’s presentation was electric: he recounted how his advertising degree led him into decades of brilliant branding opportunities. From his start as an intern at The Dallas Morning News, then to Account Coordinator at TBWA, Burrell, and DDB, all the way to Nike World Headquarters. His story served as a testament to what is on the other side of an SMU Advertising degree. My classmates and I left feeling inspired and encouraged, knowing that our hard work will soon pay off.
The night culminated with a TAI exclusive after-party at Centre. Three lucky TAI students won free Nike kicks and the unlucky bunch left with $100 gift cards.
TAI Alumnus Stirling Barrett was recently named to Forbes 2019 30 Under 30 list for Art & Style as “one of the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada.” His creative entrepreneurialism manifested at an early age when he marketed his own photographic collages as a teenager in New Orleans. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the Temerlin Advertising Institute in 2011, he returned to his home city and continued creating artwork, flirting with the possibility of opening his own gallery. Instead, he self-financed the 2013 launch of KREWE, a luxury eyewear company that sells sunglasses, prescription glasses, and sports eyewear. The company has opened two stores in New Orleans, one small boutique in Soho, and two traveling tiny house stores. Barrett also recently founded Krewe Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides New Orleans adolescents access to eye care and free prescription eyewear. The company’s celebrity following includes Gigi Hadid, Serena Williams, Beyoncé, and Kendall Jenner. Congratulations, Sterling!
I came to SMU and wanted to be a theater major. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out. At the beginning of my freshman year, I asked myself, “what can I study that still allows me to be surrounded by unique, creative, and thought-provoking people?” Luckily, I found Advertising which allowed me to think creatively, problem-solve, and exhibit my presentation skills acquired from experience in theater. I also majored in Spanish which helped me learn more about other cultures. This better positioned me to navigate the world advertising because I can understand and interact with people who speak different languages.
After being accepted into the TAI Strategic Brand Management program, I met with my academic advisor. She told me about Dieste, a multicultural advertising agency in Dallas. After that conversation, my goal was to work for Dieste because it fuses my two majors and celebrates the diversity of every person.
I was hired as a Project Manager at Dieste after I graduated in May. In my opinion, the project manager is one of the most valuable positions to have at an agency. I oversee the strategic process from start to finish and interact with every department that is involved with the project (e.g. creative production, financials, brand leadership). I am now knowledgeable of the departments’ goals so I can empathize with them and better understand their needs. This will help me in the future as I continue to navigate different fields in advertising.
I cannot speak more highly of TAI and the faculty because they prepared me for my first professional role in Advertising. My brand management classes taught me how to think strategically, how to strengthen brands, and how to manage specific daily tasks. My ethics course helped me view the world through different cultural perspectives and understand the ethical responsibility in advertising. And although I was not enrolled in the Creative Advertising program, the Introduction to Creativity course prepared me for the wonderful weirdness that I experience among the creatives on my team. Finally, my two years of experience on Ad Team solidified what I had learned. I exemplified my project management skills as the Team Director and provided prospective employers with a printed plan book, visual and textual proof of my professional skills. I was confident in my interview with Dieste but I believe that the book sealed the deal.
I encourage current TAI students to embrace the department, the faculty, and the programs it offers (like Ad Team *wink*). While actually working in the field leverages your professional experience, TAI gets you there as close as possible. Additionally, I encourage you to embrace your niche. Continue to pursue your passions. Working at Dieste has further emphasized the importance of embracing cultures. Beyond ethnicity and heritage, the unique interests of people become parts of their culture. As advertisers, the better we can understand everyone’s interests, the better we can connect them to the brands we represent.
I graduated with degrees in Creative Advertising and Film and Media Arts. Both majors involve conceptual thinking and storytelling. I am thankful that these areas of study are both in the Meadows School of the Arts. I utilized the school’s film equipment and knowledge from my production classes to build my advertising portfolio. Furthermore, my two respective but connected majors allowed me to focus my four years as an undergraduate student on the art and science of storytelling. During my senior year, I applied to over forty advertising agencies across the United States. Temerlin’s excellent professors, curriculum, and networking opportunities helped me secure a position as the art direction intern at BBDO in New York City. This is the first time that I have worked in a large agency with prominent clients. So far, the experience has been overwhelming but worth every second.
You never know where a single Instagram contest will take you. For me, one little Instagram post allowed me to present an elevator pitch to Scott Belsky, Chief Product Development Officer of Adobe. He basically makes all creative careers possible. That elevator pitch won me a trip to Adobe MAX, an annual creative conference. During this three-day conference in Los Angeles, four thousand art directors, designers, and typeface enthusiasts join together and dive deeper into the software that makes our jobs possible. We tested out new features, listened to industry leaders, and nabbed a TON of free stuff (my favorite freebie was an ACTUAL type specimen! It’s a little metal piece of a letterpress that came in a tiny labeled test tube. SO COOL!). The conference encouraged me to get outside of my laptop and appreciate all the awesomeness of design and how it brings together incredibly interesting people and projects.
I recently graduated from TAI in May but my SMU experience has given me the warmest welcome into the real world. I work with several former TAI rockstars at BBDO in New York –several of whom were in my own cohort! I also still bother my professors even though I’m no longer in their classes (Sorry Mark for de-railing your Advanced Portfolio class a couple weeks ago!). My education didn’t stopped when I left the classroom. The foundation of skills that I learned at TAI gave me the confidence to enter the art direction world wholeheartedly. My professors taught me that it’s always okay to ask questions and to seek advice from trusted friends and colleagues to strengthen my work.
Scott said it best in his opening keynote presentation on the first day of MAX: “The best way to learn to create is by seeing how others create.” TAI allowed me to learn from and alongside some of my favorite creative minds and I feel endlessly grateful for that opportunity.
Thursday May 18, many TAI students attended an Alumni Gathering event in New York City as part of MayTerm courses in New York. They got to mix and mingle with many SMU and TAI graduates from many different classes. These alumni are now thriving in their careers in New York City and took the opportunity to connect with and talk to current students.
Many TAI students have aspirations of working in New York City after they graduate, so getting to meet with alums who were in there shoes merely a few years ago was very motivational for them.
“The event was such a great way to network with the NYC TAI advertising community,” TAI student Joanna Fennessy said. “Especially as a rising senior wanting to work in advertising in the city post graduation, I found the event extremely useful and inspiring. I was able to talk to all kinds of alums working in agencies, with brands, and for consultancies. It broadened my knowledge of the industry and my network within in a city other than Dallas for a change!”
Many TAI students on the Creative track appreciated the chance to meet former TAI Creative students and listen to their advice.
“The networking event was an incredible opportunity for the Creative track students,” TAI student Jolie Guz said. “It was crazy to meet other creatives who were in our shoes on the same trip a year ago, but are now working for agencies like Digitas and Wieden+Kennedy. I was not only able to meet SMU alumni in the New York area on this trip, but I also had the chance to get closer with a lot of my friends in the creative track as well.”
All the students on the New York trip appreciated the occasion to bond with fellow students and to learn more about advertising opportunities in New York.
“The New York trip gave me key insights to not only what some of the top agencies in the industry are about, but helped better my understanding of what kind of agency I want to work for,” TAI student Samantha Shearson said. “I was so impressed with this trip and all of the SMU alums’ generosity on taking time out of their days to make this trip special for us. This trip exceeded all my expectations and will inspire me to work harder on my book.”
Recent TAI graduate Marissa Lopez (’16) is now working as a Junior Art Director at BBDO in New York. Lopez has quite an impressive resume, participating in both the NSAC Ad Team and AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Student (MPMS) program along with a variety of internships during her undergraduate career. Every unique experience that she had in college prepared her for the career she has now.
Lopez took advantage of all the internship opportunities she could. She had three advertising internships during her college career, at both large and small advertising agencies and directly for a brand. Working for such different companies allowed Lopez to get an idea of her ideal workplace.
“The summer before my Senior year was when I had my first advertising agency experience,” Lopez said. “I was an art director intern at Dieste, a multicultural advertising agency located in Dallas. I had the opportunity to work on Cricket Wireless, LaLa Yogurt, and AT&T accounts. When I returned to school in the fall I started an internship at Southwest Airlines as a digital marketing and design intern. I took this opportunity because I was interested in seeing the difference between advertising at an agency versus in-house. At Southwest I got to focus on how print translates into the digital sphere and website design. In the Spring of my senior year I worked at a smaller, boutique agency called Willow St. located in Deep Ellum. It was a great experience and I learned so much. The perk of a small agency at an intern level is the one-on-one time you get with industry professionals. During my time at Willow St. I designed packaging, a website and was constantly producing social media content for various brands. I think working at a smaller agency while still in college helped me to really focus in on my graphic design skills.”
All of these internship opportunities taught her some very important lessons that helped prepare her for her job today. While each taught her different skills and lessons, she took away several pieces of advice that can be applied to all internship experiences.
“Some of the most important things my internships taught me were how important work environment/company culture is, time management, and how to successfully handle direction and criticism,” Lopez said. “Once you set foot in the advertising industry you’ll be quick to notice that no one is going to hold your hand. It’s sink or swim, and you have to self-motivate and even fake it till you make it at times. The sooner you can get exposed to that, the better.”
Along with internships, Lopez had the opportunity to be a member of SMU’s NSAC Ad Team. She served as both a creative and a presenter on the team, giving her first hand experience in campaign design and pitching a campaign.
“My experience on the NSAC Ad Team was one of the most rewarding,” Lopez said. “At the end of the day, you have to be able to work with people regardless of what you do or where you’re working. Being able to be a ‘team-player’ is so cliché but it’s the truth. You want people to want to work with you. It’s how you get your hands on the best accounts and work. Ad Team is the closest experience you get to what working on a campaign at a professional level is like, and I’m so lucky to have gotten that exposure. I walked away with so much more confidence as a presenter, and also with a greater understanding of how important it is to put egos aside, be flexible and successfully work with others.”
Once starting her job at BBDO, Lopez quickly learned that while the campaigns she worked on in school have the same elements as campaigns at work, they also differ in many ways.
“In college when you’re working on campaigns for class or Ad Team, you have more creative freedom than you probably ever will again,” Lopez said. “Take advantage of that. The campaigns I’ve worked on at BBDO have a lot in common to Ad Team; there’s a brief, a target, a budget, a team you work with, and some type of deliverables. The biggest difference is the turnaround is not a few months, but instead a week, maybe if you’re lucky two.”
While all of the previous experiences helped her gain skills and lessons for working at an advertising agency, Lopez attributes her current job to AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Student program.
“MPMS is what got my foot in the door at BBDO,” Lopez said. “It was an extremely rewarding experience, and I was very honored to be given the award. It was so refreshing to see how diversity plays a role in the industry and how it is becoming such a large part of it. I was very fortunate to meet a BBDO recruiter that saw my potential at the awards program. Exposure and networking is so crucial. Take advantage of every opportunity, contest, award show etc. You never know who you will meet.”
After graduation, Lopez moved to New York to start her internship with BBDO. Soon after, she knew that she wanted to work there full-time, so she worked extremely hard to prove that she deserved the position.
“The internship was a wonderful experience, and I fell in love with the BBDO company culture and everyone I was working with,” Lopez said. “All of the creatives and the creative work I was surrounded by was extremely inspiring and I knew right away that I wanted to stay past summer and get hired on full-time. I did anything and everything over the course of the summer to prove that I deserved to stay. I worked late hours, weekends, and said ‘yes’ to every opportunity. After 5 months of interning, I was offered a full-time position as a Junior Art Director on the PepsiCo account and have been hard at work ever since.”
Lopez has used the skills she learned in her advertising and graphic design courses at SMU to achieve the success she has today.
“So much of what I learned in my advertising classes at SMU have translated and helped me in my job now,” Lopez said. “Being able to share and talk about your work is probably the most important one. You have to be able to believe in your ideas and get others to as well. At BBDO there are many people your work has to go through before it actually reaches the client, so you’ve got to be able to pitch and talk about it with confidence. All of the Graphic Design and Portfolio classes that required me to present and create presentations to show my work have all helped me so much today.”
Throughout her experiences, Lopez learned the importance of networking and being able to set yourself apart from others. She hopes that her advice can help current students achieve their goals as well.
“Network and meet as many people in the industry as you can,” Lopez said. “Most people are willing to help and share advice. Also, find a strength that sets you apart from others. It doesn’t even have to be a skill; maybe it’s a personality trait. Everyone is talented and creative, but find that passion or trait that’s unique to you and showcase it in your work, portfolio, or resume. People like to see passion. Also, just be nice. Working hard and being kind and genuine will actually get you places!”
TAI Alum (’11) Jenny Lanier has had a very successful career since her graduation from SMU. In her three years as an Art Director at Moroch, Lanier accomplished a lot, working with clients like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Mattress Giant. Recently, Lanier was featured in the 2016 Communications Arts Advertising Annual.
“I was featured in the Communications Arts Advertising Annual for a billboard for McDonald’s,” Lanier said. “The assignment was to push $1 beverages in markets during the summer. Our client wanted something more special. My team and I thought it would be interesting to have a temperature gauge on the billboard to say that each degree of heat is just another reason to grab a drink at McDonald’s.”
To be featured in the Communications Arts Advertising Annual is a very special honor for former advertising students. TAI Creative Advertising Professor Mark Allen, also Lanier’s former professor, refers to it as “the golden ring” for creatives.
“It’s special [to me] because it was a publication I frequently referred to as a student,” Lanier said. “CA Annuals were required books for all of our advertising classes. I remember we would go through and flag the campaigns that resonated with us – ones that we wish we had thought of. To think a student might do that with the project I worked on makes me smile.”
This year, Lanier and her team at Moroch won a gold ADDY in the OOH & Ambient category for their McDonald’s “Refresh” campaign. Lanier also won a silver ADDY in 2014 for an Interactive Web Banner for McDonald’s called “Up and At ‘Em.”
“Everyone loves to be told ‘good job,’ especially when you work really hard,” Lanier said. “These awards are just a little pat on the back that let you know you’re on the right track. I was always proud of my peers for getting published or winning awards. It feels good to experience those honors firsthand.”
Lanier attributes a lot of her career success to her time in the creative department at TAI, from the student and faculty connections she made to the practical skills she carried into her career.
“I felt incredibly lucky to be under the tutelage of two amazing professors in the creative department: Mark Allen and Glenn Griffin,” Lanier said. “To say they changed my life is an understatement. When I was in the program, they inspired all of us to want to be great while empowering us to get there ourselves. More practically speaking, the rigor of the program helped prepare me to meet deadlines and practice professionalism with my clients. I also met many talented students who have remained very close friends. Having a tight network of alums is invaluable.”
Currently, Lanier is pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts in Graphic Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. She’s recently accepted an offer to be a Software Designer at IBM in Austin, which she will be starting next summer.
“It’s an exciting time to work in technology,” Lanier said. “I’m eager for all of the opportunities that await me at IBM. My goals for my career have always been to keep learning, work hard, and be proud of myself at the end of each day. I do see myself teaching somewhere down the line. I remember SMU and SCAD professors who made a huge impact on my life. Having a positive influence on other potential students would be extremely gratifying.”
Throughout her undergraduate, graduate, and career experiences, Lanier has learned valuable lessons that she hopes to impart on people who are in the same position she was once in.
“To the creative track students: take advantage of being in Professor Allen’s class,” Lanier said. “It is rare to find someone who not only cares about your academic development, but also cares about you as an individual. Professor Allen is brilliant and I felt like I became smarter just by breathing the same air as he did! So listen to him. To everyone [all students]: Make good connections with both your classmates and professors. Perform in ways that make people want to be on your team. I think you can get a lot of opportunities by being a kind, honest, and hardworking person. Employers will invest in your education and training if they want to work with you.”
For anyone, student or not, looking for a job or trying to establish a name for themselves, Lanier suggests using social media to help build your personal brand.
“On a more tangible level, use your social media presence as a way to show your personality,” Lanier said. “People will comb the depths of the Internet to look you up, so make sure what you say reflects you accurately. If you love photography, showcase your talents on Instagram. If you fancy yourself a comedian, fill your Twitter with shareable one-liners. There are a lot of ways you can convey your personality online, so take advantage of what’s most appropriate for you. An interviewer once brought up one of my Tweets in a meeting because he thought it was really funny. It sounds silly, but it isn’t. Take your personal brand seriously because you always have an audience.”