Scads of fun. My presentation at the Savannah College of Art & Design.
February 25, 2009
I recently gave a presentation to the advertising department at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). The topic was Creating Cult-like Belief Systems for Brands. A favorite topic of mine, I’ve covered it on Gods numerous times. It is also an important component of my new novel, The Happy Soul Industry. The idea is converting people into true believers -the Holy Grail for advertisers. Brands like Apple, Nike and Altoids (thank you!) have been able to do this, with marketing playing a key role. Amazon and Starbucks have done it without much advertising. Either way, once a belief system is in place, people worship these products like they’re deity.
To be honest, I half expected SCAD to be a tiny, artsy workshop. Nothing could be further from the truth. With a student body approaching 9,000 students, and covering almost 50 fields relating to design, film and advertising, SCAD is no mere workshop. First of all, the campus encompasses buildings all over the historically famous town of Savannah, capped off by a 28,000 square foot student center housed in a gloriously redone 19th century synagogue! It was there I gave my presentation.
Before my speaking engagement, I visited the Advertising School, auditing Professor William Shanahan’s Advertising Business class. The students were creating integrated marketing communications (IMC) as part of their curriculum. I was impressed at how accurate the process was compared to “real life” IMC plans. Granted, their plans were rudimentary but the program is timely.
In terms of current technology, the school is loaded. These kids were working on the best machines in Apple’s repertoire. In a film editing class, I observed students cutting film on dual monitors with state-of-the-art flat screen preview in front of the class. I was told their professor was the sound editor for the Academy Award winning film, Amadeus. Because of his pedigree, the students actually get to work on that movie. Pretty cool.
Despite what seems like a exceptional education, I told the students it will undoubtedly take time getting gigs in our woeful economy. But that’s true for everyone is almost every field. Oh well, if twenty-year olds have one thing on their side, it’s time. Given the grim prospects (at least for the short term), I can’t think of a better place to hang and learn than SCAD.
In my day, there were no such schools. Not really. Back then advertising was part of journalism and it was often fairly naïve. For perspective, I took one ad class at the University of Wisconsin and I took it pass/fail. I recall our mid-term featuring a print ad with various blank call-outs. We were to identify the headline, tagline, logo and body copy. Pretty lame. While my alma mater has dramatically improved since then, I doubt even it has the species-specific expertise so obviously on display at SCAD.