your brain on your sleeve & your heart on the table

before coming to ad school, i had a question that was never sufficiently addressed: just what is ad school?

i tried the logical cartesian approach. there were two parts — advertising and school. so that must mean that it’s a place where you get the rudiments of commercial messaging, a sort of 3 r’s approach for the marketing set: reading, writing and return on investment.

but the more i researched, and the more ad school portfolios i read, i found that no two were alike despite being produced by people who’d had, ostensibly, a similar experience. instead, i found creative and smart people offering solutions to all sorts of real-world challenges, from how to make a search engine as useful as it could be to reducing homelessness in major cities.

and then i started hearing stories about what people were doing once they actually started working. and these pursuits were even broader. but i needed clarity, so i decided to drop into miami ad school for a visit.

i toured with the advisor, eva, and she showed me a few classrooms, all of which were outfitted with every tool a digital creative could dream of. then she pointed out the ping-pong tables in the common space and said, “this is where a lot of our students knock ideas back and forth.”

after that, we sat down and had a long conversation about motivation, creativity and success. ad school was turning out to be like some exquisite stone turned up on the beach. the more i turned it, more colors appeared.

so i decided that if i was to ever know for sure what ad school was, i’d just have to attend. and i did attend miami ad school. i’m still in my first month, and i still don’t have an answer to my question. i’m not sure i ever will.

this is what I’ve noticed so far. the idea reigns supreme, but no one will listen to you if you’re a jerk –– so don’t be a jerk. you’ll be presenting all the time, and since insincerity lacks luster, it pays to keep it real. besides that, it doesn’t really matter who you are as long as you’re willing to always wear your brain on your sleeve and leave your heart on the table. and be curious. it’s questions, not answers, that matter most.

by evan burton

Evan Burton bio picevan burton is a writer from brooklyn. he thinks there’s no metaphysics on earth like oysters and champagne. you can reach him at evan@evanburtoncreative.com

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dispatches from ad school: standing up to public speaking fears

Lina standupi have been a classically trained pianist since I was 6. as a result, i participated in several recitals, from the auditorium of my elementary school to the stage at Carnegie Hall. those butterflies that everyone speaks of before they do anything of remote value in front of an audience? i never experienced them at the time. i heard of them from my mother, who subsequently grew them for me. growing up, i was a performer. i was always doing something in front large groups of people. i don’t remember thinking twice about it, i simply did it without protest.

i was the same much throughout high school and college. i was always the first to volunteer to speak. i loved the attention. and then somewhere between the end of college and the beginning of ad school, it felt as if someone turned off the “performing” switch. i no longer wanted the spotlight. i felt self-conscious. i found it difficult to articulate my ideas to large groups of people who were watching as my mouth vomited words and i inwardly chanted “do not faint right now, do not faint right now, do not faint right now.”

i knew that with advertising came presenting — i just wasn’t prepared for this much presenting. at Miami Ad School you have to present roughly three times a week. these presentations get more intense with each quarter and often longer. on occasion you will have to present at agencies in front of several creative directors. it’s nerve-wracking, to say the least. at first i had a hard time coping with this aspect of advertising, but as the activity grew more repetitive, it became increasingly easier to get up there. this is especially true if you feel passionate about what you’re presenting, so be passionate. allow yourself to get lost in the moment, articulate your ideas the way you would to your friends,  make your presence known. don’t worry: half the time, people will be too busy g-chatting to even listen, so do it for yourself. push past the uncomfortable. let fear be your motivator. if i can do it so can you, i promise.

a week ago, i performed stand up in front of 50+ people at MAS. every copywriter has to take the stand up comedy class, and in those 10 weeks you learn to leave your inhibitions at the door and perform to your best ability. for me, it was a weekly challenge but as i got up there in front of my peers and held the microphone below my mouth, i forgot all about my fears. it felt like i was playing the piano, except instead of hitting a bunch of different keys, i echoed words spoken directly from my heart.

for me, stand-up comedy was one of the most difficult things i have ever done in my life. a week later, i still can’t believe that i did it. after i was done with my 7-minute bit, which was performed in front of my peers, their friends, and a dozen creative directors, i felt more alive than i ever had in my life. it felt like the ending of a great date; there was this indescribable yearning for more.

although i’m not sure if i’ll ever do stand up again, i can say that my fear of public speaking has now taken a backseat, and those butterflies that i didn’t have when I was 9, well — they’re around now, but they’re the best kind of butterflies anyone can have.

lina

by elina rudkovsky

about the author: When Elina isn’t writing for or about advertising, she is with her therapist talking about it. Check her out at ElinaRudkovsky.com

dispatches from ad school: meet elina of Miami Ad School

elina rudkovsky, our ad school blogger

introducing elina rudkovsky, our ‘dispatches from ad school’ blogger

i was first introduced to advertising at 19, after dating an art director who worked at GREY advertising. it wasn’t long after that, that i became enamored with an industry i knew almost nothing about except that everyone had a funky haircut, checked their blackberrys incessantly, and referred to themselves as “creative.” i always thought being “creative” meant that you didn’t hate the 45 minutes you spent in art class, or that you’ve been to every museum in new york city, by choice. looking back, i’m not sure what it was that i found appealing but i began to feverishly pursue advertising even after my relationship was over.

the truth is, i think i may have always been a “creative” despite my dislike for the MET (sorry, everyone). i am a writer, always have been. however, coming from a moderately conservative family, i was reluctant to deviate from the norm to become one, professionally. what was i going to write about? did i want to publish a book? was i ready to take on the role of starving artist? i wasn’t sure, but i did know that writing was a passion of mine that i couldn’t just give up on. for years i found comfort in the rips of an old leather couch harbored inside a neighborhood coffee shop, where i spent weekends curled up with my laptop, allowing my imagination to take me on adventures that only the power of the written word could.

i decided on the copywriting program at Miami Ad School after i realized that getting a job in advertising is like trying to have a child without a partner: sure there are ways around it, but ultimately you need a mate and in this case, a portfolio and an art director to bring it to life. starting Miami Ad was similar to starting kindergarten. everything was new, writing no longer seemed innate (wait till you get to Photoshop, it’s like learning how to walk again), and there’s a strong chance you might cry, maybe even on your first day. i’m serious.

during one of my first weeks at Miami Ad, a peer of mine said “we are all in this together” as we stood on a snowy stoop outside the building that is 10 jay st, waiting for our partner to show up to a group meeting. on a saturday! however, what she said was something that has always stuck with me. it has become my comforting go-to thought whenever chaos ensued, and chaos ensues a lot.

i could sit here and bore you with the technicalities that come with ad school and spew out words like “shop” (fancy ad word for agency), “spots” (fancy ad word for commercials/radio announcements), “pixels” (still don’t really know what this means), addy’s (advertising award), but it won’t really capture the essence of what this experience is all about. that’s what ad school is, in a nutshell, an experience. here’s the thing: you will work really hard and as result you will fall in love with your work and just as quickly you will begin to hate your work. you will get over it and move on. you will feel pressure. you will learn about rejection. you will become okay with rejection (or as ok as you can get) because criticism will motivate you to do better. you will get competitive. you will not become an asshole, and if you do become an asshole, do everyone else a favor and pick another career choice because nobody will want to work with you. you will become overwhelmed, and if you’re anything like me, an ” emotional neurotic wreck but funny and composed when necessary” (direct quote from one of my past instructors) you will cry, in the stairwell. but you will not be alone, and in that lies the silver lining. there will always be someone with you on that same stairwell, whether an instructor or a peer, reassuring you that can do it. whatever the “it” may be. i consider myself exceptionally lucky to have found a group of people that are (although in direct competition with me) incredibly supportive, making life seemingly unimaginable without them.

if there’s anything that i hope you take away from this post, it is that ad school is not just an environment where you go to work on your book, but rather a place where you will learn of the greater picture. from concepts, to brands, and yourself as a person, your mind will shift perspective and grow. for me, it’s been a challenging albeit a life-altering experience thus far that i know will be hard to say goodbye to come next december, and i hope it is the same for you.

by elina rudkovsky

about the author: When Elina isn’t writing for or about advertising, she is with her therapist talking about it. Check her out at ElinaRudkovsky.com