Archive for February, 2010

Lessons in Advertising

By Amanda Eggert

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my internship at Laughlin Constable is to roll with the punches.

Advertising is a fast-paced industry that changes from minute to minute. There’s simply no time to pout or procrastinate. The options are go with the flow or be left behind. Perhaps the best example I have of this is my recent move to an office.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a creature of habit. When somewhat abruptly offered an office (a giant move up from my cubicle), my first thought was “Ahh! Something different!” Then 0.02 seconds past and I got a hold of myself. While nervous for a big change, I realized what a wonderful opportunity it was and just went with it. Days later I have an awesome space to call my own and am feeling more productive and integrated with the team.

Another aspect of rolling with the punches is letting things slide. Well, not “slide” as much as grow thicker skin. I’ll explain: I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve started (for prospective or current clients) that end up unnecessary, put on hold, or completely revised, days or even hours later. It’s tough to see hard work go to waste but that’s a product of advertising’s fast paced nature…it’s nothing against me.  Criticism is a good thing and every project is a learning opportunity regardless of whether the end product is used.

At the end of the day, it’s about embracing change. You just may be surprised at the outcome.

Amanda Eggert is a senior studying advertising and communication at Marquette. She currently interns for Milwaukee advertising agency Laughlin Constable in the company’s online and digital department. Amanda will share her experience interning in the advertising world throughout the course of the semester.

Nickel and Dimed: A Review

By Jennifer Janviere

Last week I saw our Theatre Arts department’s production of Nickel and Dimed. This play is a stage adaptation based on author Barbara Ehrenreich’s sociological experiment working among the ranks of the lowest paid individuals in the country and documenting whether it was actually possible to get by financially doing so.  The story follows Ehrenreich through various undercover experiences in a range of minimum-wage occupations, from restaurant server to housekeeper to retail clerk.

For anyone unable to catch this play during its two week run this month, an initial reaction to the above synopsis might be that the plot sounds a bit bleak. After all, the story chronicles Ehrenreich’s stint as a member of the working poor, complete with all the indignities and hardships regularly endured by this segment of the population.

Nickel and Dimed, contrary to expectations, was surprisingly uplifting and even funny in many parts. Highlights included the main character’s wryly humorous observations, as well as a wonderfully creative shopping cart dance number strategically set inside an infamous big box retailer. Continue reading ‘Nickel and Dimed: A Review’

Return The Favor

By Amanda Eggert

Recently, I gave my first ever informational interview!

Dave Hanneken (SVP Creative Director at Laughlin Constable) asked me to talk to a UW-Madison student about my journey in advertising thus far. Of course I said I yes! I myself had many informational interviews  prior to getting the job at Laughlin. One of which was with Dave.

It was a combination of luck, follow through and hard work that got me where I am today. Dave spoke in one of my classes at Marquette and that following Sunday I spotted him at my church. I approached him after mass, got his business card, contacted him, and went in for an informational interview. Bam! The rest is history.

I’ll admit I’m still new to the advertising industry, but I want to share what I’ve learned so far. I’m just trying to return the favor. Everyone starts somewhere.

Amanda Eggert is a senior studying advertising and communication at Marquette. She currently interns for Milwaukee advertising agency Laughlin Constable in the company’s online and digital department. Amanda will share her experience interning in the advertising world throughout the course of the semester.

The Wakerly Technology Training Center: A Year in Review

By Carole Burns

As I sit here in the Wakerly Technology Training Center, I think back on all the changes that have taken place during the past year. Some ideas worked, others didn’t. But then again,  you only fail if you fail to try. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t like to turn down a challenge. I took over the WTTC and made a radical move. I opened the door!

This was not as easy as it sounds. There was the problem of students not realizing that even with the door open they could come in and work. Add to this the problem of security and the challenge of getting into the building to use the lab after hours. All were solved with a bright yellow doorstop, a call to public safety  and some additional student employees. Continue reading ‘The Wakerly Technology Training Center: A Year in Review’

Digital Storytelling: More Story, Less Digital, Please

By Gee Ekachai

Digital storytelling seems to be a buzz word these days.
PR pros talk about they need to use storytelling as a strategy to persuade their stakeholders.

Journalists, especially the dying print breed, are rushing to learn more about digital technology as a new way to report news. Many retool themselves and have become backpack journalists.

Schools started to catch on and offer courses or workshops in digital storytelling that even I want to jump on the bandwagon.

All of this is good IF we would focus more on the “story” portion, and not making the digital or technology the primary element of the story.

As a person trained in journalism, I am often puzzled by the growing enthusiasm, at times at hyperbole stage, in the storytelling wave. The fact is journalism is always about telling a story. PR writers also find creative ways to craft their stories. Whether it be a hard story or a soft story, writers attempt to tell the story in a certain compelling way that would make readers read beyond the lead. The new challenge is the addition of digital media, be it still photos, movie clips or audio voice over, as part of the story.

But the gist still remains: What is the story? What is the content? What exactly do you want to convey through texts, audio and visuals? Continue reading ‘Digital Storytelling: More Story, Less Digital, Please’

My Internship Experience: I Could Officially Work At a Copy Shop (Though I Hope I Never Have To)

By Amanda Eggert

When you think “intern” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I bet it’s “fetching coffee” “making copies” or some other mundane job. Well, I would argue those tasks (within reason) aren’t so bad.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been involved in a new client pitch. It came to a head when the team presented round two. The morning of, I staggered into work at some unholy hour with the task of printing and binding six 100 page documents by 10:30 AM. When all was said and done, I printed out 10…let’s just say I have a new found appreciation of copy store employees.

It wasn’t hard work per se, but it was time consuming and working under a deadline added pressure. Attention to detail was of the utmost importance. Punch a page wrong, and you have to reprint. Tear a page, and you have to reprint. Mess up during printing, and you have to reprint. You get the idea. But at the end of the day, the experience only adds to my arsenal of skills. I would argue that the smaller skills are what seperates you from the competition. Not to mention understanding the inner workings of the advertising industry provides a knowledge base upon which to build.

So my advice to all the interns –or hopeful interns out there– don’t grumble at the smaller tasks. Prove that you’re willing to do whatever helps the team, and they will take notice.

Amanda Eggert is a senior studying advertising and communication at Marquette. She currently interns for Milwaukee advertising agency Laughlin Constable in the company’s online and digital department. Amanda will share her experience interning in the advertising world throughout the course of the semester.

In Defense of the FTC’s New Endorsements and Testimonials Rules

By Dave Brinker
Bloggers are taking aim at the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) October 2009 revised “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” covering instances of online undisclosed compensated product endorsement.

Three common criticisms have emerged:

1) Critics contend the changes are over-broad, and thus the FTC will apply them subjectively. An article in Advertising Age argued, “In essence, what the FTC is saying is that it has defined the ruling so broadly that it will apply the law selectively at its pleasure. To pretend that politics won’t enter this picture at any point would be the height of foolishness.” (“FTC’s Blog Rules Excessive, Ridiculous and Hypocritical,” October 12, 2009).  The concern is that the threat of unpredictable enforcement will discourage Internet users from posting legal comments about products.

2) Critics also suggest that the FTC is unfairly imposing a stricter standard on Internet content than it does offline.  CNBC’s Media and Technology editor Dennis Kneal asks, “Can you imagine if the FTC were to force The Wall Street Journal’s god of gadget reviews, Walt Mossberg, to reveal in every column that the product he’s praising arrived free of charge for a tryout?”  New York Times Reporter Stephanie Clifford argues, “It’s analogous to a studio inviting critics to a free premiere. Taken to its logical conclusion, those critics would have to disclose in their review that they were allowed to see the movie for free…”  They may have a point; is it fair to subject the same review in print and online to different standards?

3) Finally, critics suggest that it is too difficult to police the ever-changing body of Internet content. A writer for The Washington Times commented that “a bunch of Washington bureaucrats think they are going to become the police in a neighborhood so big no one can measure it. Perhaps the company that did the last complete inventory of sand on public beaches will be available to help.”

Besides its vastness, critics also note that the interactive order of Internet is constantly changing, and the rules for associating personal and commercial content are in-flux and unpredictable for many who create content. “For one thing, thanks to tools like Google’s Ad Sense technology that matches ads and content, it’s easy to inadvertently blog about a sponsor brand…”  Internet users create content in a medium where the rules for how that content moves are uncertain.  Should the government subject them to potential liability in cases where they did not have complete control over their content?

These concerns are by no means frivolous, but they are a bit exaggerated. In fact, the new FTC Internet examples make it fairly clear that average unwitting users have little to worry about.
The revised guidelines include three examples specifically addressing the online space. I argue that taken together, the examples suggest a common rule; they assume a disclosure obligation and liability only for the endorser acting in a directed influential capacity by actively engaging in the creation of product-related content for the explicit purpose of doing so (as opposed to incidentally).

“Dog Food” (§255.0 Example 8): “Assume now that the consumer joins a network marketing program…”
“Skin Care” (§255.1 Example 5): “A skin care products advertiser participates in a blog advertising service. The service matches up advertisers with bloggers who will promote the advertiser’s products on their personal blogs.”
“Video Game” (§255.5 Example 7): “A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences.

The “Dog Food” and “Skin Care” examples involve people who have actively sought to create endorsements as a commercial venture.  The “Video Game” example describes a person who operates a web site specifically designed to disseminate his commentary and evaluation of commercial products.  Not only does the FTC offer a standard of active participation in product-related commentary, it also implies in the “Video Game” example that if the user is receiving products because they are known to comment about products online, the advertiser has the responsibility to alert them to the rules.

So yes, enforcement might be subjective, but only to the point that the FTC examples create a burden of proof to show that the person they wish to fine has a demonstrated history of commenting on products.

In the same way, the standard for the on and offline communities might be different; but as critics themselves have pointed out, the way users interact with and understand the online space changes rapidly. It is therefore reasonable to assume that consumers need more protection online. Surely, most reasonable people could identify the credibility difference between an endorsement in the New York Times book review and a pamphlet highlighting John Doe’s book pick of the week. They can do so because understood information credibility norms exist for the various offline media.  Online, however, the interchangeability of authors and host sites makes it impossible to apply normative credibility criteria to individual reviews. Even when they appear on credible websites, individual reviews are not necessarily vetted for the credibility of the (often anonymous) poster.

Yes, the FTC could not possibly police the entire wealth of posted content to identify potential abuses of endorsements or testimonials, but this should be a source of comfort for critics. Because they cannot pursue every case, enforcement will necessarily happen in larger forums where the abuse is most likely to be actually harmful.

Finally, concerns that increased regulation will discourage Internet use and innovation are unwarranted. The advertising practices in question are ethically dubious anyhow (otherwise disclosing them would be unnecessary), and if discouraging them results in a more cautious online consumer population it will at least improve the reliability of the endorsements and testimonials that remain. That would be far better for business than allowing the Internet’s commercial credibility to continue declining. The rules might even protect a few consumers and preserve the Internet’s competitive viability, which would mean the FTC is simply applying its offline mandate to the online space. This suggestion raises the more fundamental issue of the government’s general increasing interest in regulating the web, but that is another discussion entirely.

Dave Brinker is a senior in the Diederich College of Communication

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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