Breaking Into the Digital Ad World

By Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships

A few weeks ago I sat on the Advertising Career Night panel at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Later today, I’ll be joining the Digital Marketing Career Panel at Loyola in Chicago. When I participate in these kinds of events I’m always surprised by how little institutional knowledge there is regarding the online advertising space at today’s colleges and universities.

So what’s holding academia back? Well, quite simply, there are very few people with “real world” digital marketing experience that are in a position (or would be willing to forego the money they’re making) to become a college professor and build out an interactive marketing curriculum. And there are very few comprehensive resources available to guide such a track. By the time anyone published an online marketing textbook it would be out of date.

So what are the nubile young minds of tomorrow to do if they have aspirations of breaking into the digital ad world? Here are a few tips:
1. Take as many diverse classes as your major allows. Connecting brands with consumers online takes a keen understanding of different mindsets, cultures, technologies, etc. We are looking for well-rounded people that we can train in our area of expertise. We can teach search. We can’t teach diverse experience.
2. Experiment on the web. Get in deep with MySpace or Facebook, if you’re not already. Join LinkedIn. Create a Google Gadget. Customize your Yahoo homepage. Start a blog, burn a feed, and use Google Analytics to monitor your traffic.
3. Read the online marketing trades. Media Post, iMediaConnection, ClickZ and others are great sources of the latest news and commentary. And Ad Age, AdWeek, DM News and others all provide solid coverage of the interactive space.
4. Network with industry professionals. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Seek out people who work in the space and pick their brains. Offer to buy them lunch or ask for an informational interview. And stay in touch with them. Send them relevant articles you’ve read about their clients or their client’s competitors. Give them a reason to want to talk with you.
5. Land an internship. Most interactive agencies and online media companies do not have standardized internship programs. At Resolution Media, we’ve had paid summer interns for the past couple years but we’re in the minority. That said, go to a company that interests you and offer to intern for them. And, if you can make it work financially, offer to do it for free! I don’t know anyone that would turn down an offer for free help given how much work and how little time we all have.

At Resolution Media, we’re not waiting around for higher education to start churning out digital media rockstars. So we’ve developed an extensive orientation program and ongoing learning and development culture that allows us to take smart, eager individuals and put them on a path towards building our clients’ businesses as well as their personal careers. So far this formula is working. But it sure would be nice to be able to start hiring interactive advertising majors. Until then, we’ll be on the lookout for folks that can check the boxes above.

Posted by: Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships


Dave McAnally said...

No doubt...that's always been a mystery to me how higher education can completely sidestep a 10+ billion a year industry like they do and still herald mass marketing concepts that have been dead for most companies (save for the largest of the large) for years.

But in a way, I kind of like the idea that search hasn't reached the upper education world yet. Compared to more offline/traditional marketing fields, it seems like SEM gets more people involved because they are truly excited about what's going on. I reserve the right to be wrong, but I would be willing to throw the hypothesis out there that if it colleges offered minors or even majors in Search Marketing, you'd have a horde of kids coming into the business because they have this 'degree' they earned because it's growing fast and there's a salary to be made. I say that because from what I've seen in my life, colleges tend to promote degrees and such based on earnings potential. I'm a lot less interested in working with people primarily motivated by collecting a paycheck (not that the industry is entirely null and void of that lot of folks) and more by people who do this because it's what excites them.

That said, you're advice is spot on for people looking to dive in

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