The Tale of Two Cities

This year Moore, Oklahoma and Black Forest, Colorado experienced record breaking natural disasters. There is a degree of heartache of those from a community struck by a disaster that no amount of national news coverage can capture. There have been a variety of perspectives on my situation this past month – mainly unlucky. However, moving from the community of Moore, Oklahoma to the community of Black Forest, Colorado has exposed me to an understanding of two very different tragedies and the similar healing that follows. This is my story of Oklahoma and Colorado.

I had stayed in Oklahoma an extra week after graduation soaking up every remaining moment at my favorite Oklahoma spots with my college friends until I absolutely had to return to Dallas to prepare to move to Colorado. Driving southbound I-35 out of my college town and the Sooner state was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever experienced.

The following day I spent my post-graduate depression packing miscellaneous items in my parent’s north Texas home. I did not even think twice about the tweets filling my Twitter timeline about a tornado. In the time I lived in Oklahoma I had experienced countless tornados and had even once driven through one that touched down on the highway. The spring season in tornado alley consisted mainly of my friends and I sitting on rooftops and balconies watching the sky turn green or taking shelter for a couple of hours before continuing our night. It was just a weather pattern we had grown used to – some were scary, some were not. I had not wanted to think about Oklahoma anymore that day until my mom walked into the room and said “Christina, I think you need to come watch the news…”

I sat infront of the television with my stomach in knots and tears rolling down my face. The news reports were describing the destruction as leaving the area unrecognizable. Unfortunately to those of us from that community it was, in fact, recognizable still. The turned over cars in the street, the footage of what was once buildings – we recognized it all. Moore, Oklahoma was a town OU students drove through almost daily – we ate in those restaurants, we saw movies at The Warren and now these places were on the national news in debris. I had struggled so much saying goodbye to the Oklahoma City community and now one day later there was a major devastation taking place and I wasn’t there to help. The only way to describe what I felt is heartbroken. The reoccurring thought of “I was just there” was haunting.

The events that took place in the days that followed were remarkable. I was easily able to donate clothes because countless students returned to the area. There was nothing on my Facebook timeline but statuses about ways to help the community – everything from Red Cross volunteer efforts to monetary donations through drinking Oklahoma brewed beer. The entire state rallied behind this community. The stories and pictures from my native Oklahoma friends were unreal. As I drove into Colorado I wore the Oklahoma Osage Shield on my shirt proudly.

I settled into my new apartment in Colorado Springs, Colorado and began my job downtown. On my second day of work the wildfires began. In a sense it felt similar to some of the reactions to tornados. It was nerve-racking but something that the area had experienced before. However, it was not long before the situation passed the magnitude of the Waldo Canyon fire that occurred in Colorado Springs last summer. Areas around Colorado Springs began evacuating and the remainder of the afternoon was spent watching the news. I left work that day unsure of what to make of the situation. My drive home was slow as cars paused on the highway to fixate on the huge cloud of smoke coming from the North East. When I arrived home to my apartment I stood in silence alongside my neighbors as we watched the smoke come into Colorado Springs from the Black Forest Fire.

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Perhaps I am unlucky. But I also I am experiencing first-hand what happens to a community during a tragedy. The transition as a community becomes a family. Hundreds of families in Colorado and Oklahoma have lost their homes and in response thousands of people are discovering ways to aid those displaced by the disasters. I am friends of people who were working in the regional hospital that fateful day in Oklahoma and I now work for a company owned and operated by the wife of a Colorado Springs firefighter. Possessing a certain understanding of both states’ situations and experiencing the level of sacrifice occurring around me does not feel unlucky. As the fires continue to burn through Colorado I am reminded of the astounding outreach following the tornado in Oklahoma. I was heartbroken when I was not there to help my old community but I am here to help my new one.

For more ways to help both communities please visit here for Oklahoma and here for Colorado.

Happy New Year Kansas City

It’s 2013 and I’m excited to be back in Kansas City, MO from the holidays for one last week of my internship.

The beginning of my internship was probably the best snapshot of the classic broke college student struggle in an unfamiliar city. My best friend was here interning at an agency across town and we spent our nights couch surfing and even crashed in a hotel with a couple of friends who were only in town one night. The number of times that I got lost during the first few days because my iPhone map did not take one-way streets into consideration was countless. And let’s not forget the morning where I woke up to find that an overnight snow storm completely covered my car.  It was hilarious and we both loved every minute. I spent evenings with my friend exploring the Power and Lights District, checking out the Plaza, and comparing our work days over dinner and drinks.

My last week here, however, is a little different because no one else from OU is here. My friend’s internship has ended and I’m staying by myself in hotel by the Plaza. As strange as it may be thinking about how I am in a city where I don’t really know anyone, it’s also a little liberating. It’s funny how quickly you can become familiar with an area and begin to feel “at home.” Although I’m not quite to that point with Kansas City just yet, I was completely comfortable returning to the area alone. With this idea of “testing out” new cities I can’t help but think about the transitions that are set to happen this year. I travelled a lot in 2012, mostly for advertising related functions, and every city I visited I always looked at as a potential place to live. I don’t know where I’ll be living a few months from now, much less where in the world my friends will be living.

A few days ago one of my closest friends in the strategic communication program moved to Chicago because an opportunity arose out of the blue and she took it. It was completely different from the semester she had planned for herself in Norman but it was her dream job and she made it happen. It’s the first taste of the reality that everyone will be in different places just a few months down the line. We all know college doesn’t last forever but it is still a shock to see it begin to wrap up so quickly. It’s sad but at the same time I have met some pretty incredible people and I could not be more excited to see what they go accomplish.

It’s only a few days into the new year and it’s already off to an interesting start. I’m eager about the second semester of my senior year and all the unknowns that come with the process of applying and interviewing for post-grad positions. In the meantime, I have one last great week interning with Bernstein-Rein and exploring Kansas City before I have to return to Norman, Oklahoma. It’s a new year and nothing is holding me back, nothing that is besides the sprained ankle I got skiing on New Years Eve. That is kind of a minor setback.

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Wintership

As of today my fall semester is officially over and for the first time I won’t be packing up to head home for the holidays with my parents. Instead, I start a winter break internship in Kansas City on Monday. As strange as it may be not coming home for Christmas, I am ready for my Madison Avenue of KC adventure and to have a small break from classes.

Although I will be doing more than my fair share of catching up on sleep this holiday season, December has been deemed one of the most important months of a college senior’s career. Don’t forget to take advantage of this down time. My to-do-list includes everything from job search preparation to finishing an industry book I originally started in August. Whether you are applying for an internship or entry-level position, some great suggestions for college students as to what to do over winter break can be found here.

Good luck with touching up the resumes and cover letters, but most importantly – Happy Holidays!

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Two screens are better than one.

One of the great debates of the digital era is whether or not the level of engagement between television and viewers is hindered or enhanced by multiple screens. An AdAge article from 1999 discussed how having a PC in the same room as a television distracts the user completely from the television programming and commercials. I wonder what the author thinks about two-screen viewing and the concept of social television now that interacting with multiple forms of media at once is the norm.

As a millennial especially, I always have a second screen while I watch television. I can say that 80% the time that I am watching I have my laptop out and 100% of the time I have my iPhone. I think this media multitasking has enhanced engagement rather than hindered and here’s why – social media.

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One of the best and worst aspects of social media is people’s transparency on these platforms. People post what they feel…thoughts, interactions, everything. This openness is great for tracking viewers and researching consumers’ thoughts on brands and their advertisements. How is television driving social media? Here’s a couple of the social media records this year  – during the final-night telecast of the DNC, Obama’s speech drove up to 52,757 tweets per minute. The Olympics struck up 9.66 million tweets during the opening ceremony alone. While these huge events may seem like exceptions, live-tweeting occurs all the time during regular television viewing. So while your timelines and newsfeeds fill up with tweets about the Walking Dead, the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, Sunday NFL games and those creative, funny and stupid commercials in-between, networks and advertisers alike celebrate.

How is the interaction being embraced? Integration. Programming and ad campaigns have found ways to carry the experience and conversation from the television screen to the second screen. Consumers tweeting with the promoted hashtags, liking the Facebook page, shazaming the song and Googling the product on their tablet is why I celebrate the second screen. While digital media may eventually completely replace traditional media it is currently enhancing the traditional media experience by providing outlets for expression.

Here are the “gold medalists” of the Summer 2012 Olympic sponsors on social media according to AdAge via Nielsen data.

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The Peaks and the Pits.

It has become a tradition with a few of my friends and I to take turns telling each other “the peak and the pit” of our days. The peaks being the best part of our day and the pits being the worst. As the days this semester have gotten extremely busy, we often have to transition to “peaks and pits” of the week. The semester has become so busy, in fact, that I never found time in the month of October to post. Now here we are towards then end of November and I am in disbelief that the fall semester is almost over.

So in celebration of the day of giving thanks (and finally finding time to post) here is what I’ve defined as the peak and the pit of my semester.

When I think about the semester as a whole, the only real pit has been time – both the lack of it and the pace it has flown by. In a desperate attempt to graduate on time I enrolled in 20 credit hours. Between those classes, campaign creation for my client, Ad Club and the National Student Advertising Competition time often escapes me. However, no matter how busy I think I am I always know everyone is in their own version of the same situation. Whether my classmates are taking classes not usually recommended taken concurrently, balancing multiple clients and organizations, or using the time between studying to create their websites and resumes – everyone is extremely busy with their own workload as the semester flies by. Although time has been the semester “pit,”  it has taught me a new level of time management and was the inspiration for the “senior year bucket list” my friends and I made to take advantage of every moment of the rest of our time at the University of Oklahoma.

This brings me to the semester peak – the people. While the semester has been a busy one, it has also allowed me to grow closer to a lot of people in the same field. I’ve had several conversations this semester within the agency about how one of the best aspects of the advertising industry is the people we get to work with. Whether it has been the ad professionals I’ve been in contact with in order to organize Ad Club speakers, the professionals I met in Washington DC and New York City, or the people I spend time with daily in the agency, I have been overwhelmed with the positive, relatable people in my life. As a senior especially, it has been so rewarding to have so many people to turn to for advice within the networks of current OU students, professors and OU alum. I have grown even more excited about the projects I have taken on this year because of the dedicated and passionate people that I get to work with. Although it is a competitive industry and the job search is fast approaching for us all, the encouragement and understanding of each others’ different strengths creates more of a support system than a competition. As chaotic as the semester has been with traveling, classes, organizations and client work, the people that have been a part of it all outweigh any pit.

One last thing – Lindsey + Asp’s new website is now live! Check it out here for a little more insight into who we are and what we do.

Let’s Talk About Our Options

I’m about five weeks into my senior year and I cannot list how many times already I have been asked the ever looming question of post-graduation plans. “What city do you want to live in?” is usually how the question is phrased for advertising majors. Although the school year has just started, the topic of post-grad internships and the job hunt already seem to make up over half of my conversations and thoughts.

It is not uncommon for people to pack up and move across the country on a jobless hunt for a position in an agency. I watched several of my friends do just that last May. The program I study in is very agency oriented, which is not a bad thing. It is very easy, however, to develop this “go big or go home” mindset and focus all your energy into breaking into big name agencies in the country’s largest cities. There is nothing wrong with that approach. I’m not saying that I won’t be directing energy into that as well, but it is good to be reminded that a degree in advertising allows for lots of other career opportunities too. Here are just a few.

1.) Work in-house. It sounds like the complete opposite of what we have been trained to do in an agency but it can be surprisingly similar. This summer I interned in-house at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center. The executive office has a Public Relations and Marketing Department that required agency experience so I applied. My summer internship included writing press releases and media advisories, editing ad copy, online and print ad placement, consumer research, brand research, representing the company to local news stations, creating promotional videos, non-profit partnerships, social media marketing and coordinating a promotional event. Any of that sound familiar ad majors? It’s lots of agency work but instead of working on an account you are the client.

2.) Start your own agency. I remember the first time I heard a professor suggest that concept I thought it was a ridiculous, impossible task. It’s not. Every agency started by someone with the idea to go for it. Why couldn’t it be you? When we graduate we have a full understanding of the client-agency relationship, the departments or positions that make up an agency, and have the capability to create content and pitch it to clients. Look for a business that has a need for advertising and pitch an idea. Create a business developing something like an app or a social media concept. Play your strengths, the ball will get rolling eventually.

3.) Try for the political advertising field. Over the summer I applied for the Washington Media Scholars Foundation 2012 scholarship after a professor brought it to my attention. Last month I got a call from Washington D.C. informing me I had been selected and inviting me to participate in their annual Case Study Competition. It was something I had never really considered before. The professor that suggested I apply for the scholarship has really shown me the opportunities that can become available networking in this field. If you aren’t having luck on the job search try to hop on a campaign for a few months. Media plans, target audiences, strategic communication- it’s all there.

4.) Don’t forget the small agencies. Some of the best agencies are the ones we don’t visit on our agency trips all over the country. They’re not the ones named after the “founding fathers” of advertising or always on the cover of AdAge. Research smaller agencies. There are many positive aspects to working at an agency with fewer employees. Don’t be fooled into thinking small agencies don’t have huge clients too. When you open your mind to small agencies the number of places you can apply jumps drastically.

5.) Try for Public Relations agencies. I know in my experiences I have found a lot of overlap in advertising and PR. I worked on a primarily PR account for Lindsey + Asp (OU’s Advertising and PR agency) my first semester and I somehow found myself directing PR and promotions for the National Student Advertising Competition last year. Studying in such an integrated strategic communication program is a great thing, embrace it. PR can include branding, designing messages, digital campaigns and lots more advertising you should take advantage of.

That’s five great options right there. But know the possibilities are endless – research companies, advertising federations, magazines, Social Media businesses, Advertising publications, the production industry, etc. To sum it up – don’t stress yourselves out seniors. As for me, I have a couple ideas in mind but am nowhere near a final decision. My senior year is about exploring options. I’m looking forward to attending an American Advertising Federation conference in DC next month, the New York City agency trip, interning at an agency in Kansas City over the winter break, and possibly agency trips to Chicago and San Francisco in the spring. I’m just enjoying the opportunities that have been made available to me and the great things happening this year. I’ll keep welcoming the post-grad questions but most likely won’t be answering them until graduation.

“The Ad Nerds”

Yesterday I wrote about my excitement for learning as much about the Advertising industry before graduation in May. I talked about the “borderline obsession” I share with people in my major. Our passion to grow and not only break into, but conquer the industry is apparent in almost everything we do. Today when I woke up and was scrolling through AdAge and AdWeek’s tweets (my morning ritual) I found AdWeek’s new cover story all too familiar. There is a term for these millennials, and that term is “ad nerd.”

“Behold the ad nerd, a new breed of ad professional who grew up admiring the industry as much for its ability to entertain as to sell. Long before Mad Men unleashed a new era of Madison Avenue retro cool, these millennials were being influenced by campaigns such as Budweiser’s “Wassup?” spots, which became a cultural phenomenon. As kindergarteners, they watched TV for the commercials. In high school, they joined newly formed ad clubs, and many studied advertising in college and graduate programs. They eat, breathe and tweet advertising, possessing the natural 24/7 Web habits of their generation. Addicted? Definitely.”

The full article can be found here.