Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Day of Spring Classes...

I just got off the phone with my father and Nan about the day, so I figured y'all would want to be in on it too.

What a day.  So exciting I can barely hold it in.

Yesterday, I left off wondering about what History and Intro to IMC would hold.  Well, now I know.

This morning at 10 a.m., I walked into the biggest lecture hall I've seen to date and with over 100 of my fellow students, I got to meet my history professor, Doc B.  Now, when you think of a history professor, who do you usually think of?  I usually think along the lines of Gore Vidal (from the film "With Honors") or someone like John Houseman (from "The Paper Chase").  What I got met with was Stephen Fry meets George Harrison.  Yes, that's right, with a slow London accent and a Beatles hair cut, my tour through the syllabus was something remarkably, um, dry.  But what do you expect from history?  Something sexy?  Um, no.

Here, just so you know what I'm going through every Tuesday and Thursday morning, have a listen to the deep, dulcet tones of Stephen Fry who sounds EXACTLY like Doc B. (without the swearing):

Something that annoyed me right off the bat was when Doc B. phrased Cleopatra as "an exotic woman with certain aspirations" without mentioning her name.  Other than that, he didn't get marks from me for gender equality after he mentioned more than once that it was the adult male that was a part of the democratic process, never once talking about any sort of women's role in the early history of democracy, because let's face it, there wasn't one.  He painfully reminded me that women's suffrage in the United States is only a mere 91 years old because the 19th amendment was passed in 1920.  Yes that's right, the history of humanity goes back further than the 18th century B.C., but us gals in the U.S. have only had the right to vote and take part in the democratic system for the last 91 years.  How sad is this, I ask you?  Oh yes, women, we're expected to raise children, bolster a man's ego, do all sorts of "feminine" things, but gods forbid giving us the right to actually make a difference in the larger world by having a voice through voting.  In the historical scope, I can honestly say that women have a right to be pissed if a man decides he's Mister Bigshot and expects us to just sit by and take it.  I intimidate more men on a daily basis just by my sheer force of will, so if some guy thinks he's more important than me just because he's a man...he's got another thing coming...calling Cleopatra "homicidal" and "exotic"...ooooh, ticked.  She was a feminine political powerhouse!  The woman only spoke seven languages...oh yes, she's a woman, so she's "exotic"...*gnashes teeth*

With the voice combined with the subject matter, my eyes battled to stay open.  I laughed in a few places, but otherwise than that, the syllabus states we're going on a tour of the ancient world, from Greece for democracy then on to Rome for studies about republics, a myriad of topics including the Renaissance, the American Revolutionary War (in which he said very dryly, "In all my studies as a historian, I just can't figure out what all the fuss was about..."), and it all ends up all the way back to the United States Government (according to him,"The only reason the United States has a Senate is because Rome had one...it's that simple.")

I look at it this way, it fulfills my constitutions requirement.  It's four credit hours, so as soon as I get through it, I don't ever have to look at another history book.  On top of that, I get to remark all semester long how Doc B. sounds just like Stephen Fry.

Then I had an hour and a half break before the cherry on the cake for the day, Intro to Integrated Marketing Communications.

Would you like to see my instructor?

The girls last semester warned me that my professor for Intro to IMC looked just like Sully from Monsters, Inc. and I didn't believe them.  Um, they were right.  Complete with bushy eyebrows and a tall frame, in walked Doc S. 

As we know, this is my total drool class for the semester.  Seems as I was right to want to get into this one and oh is IMC my field!  The class started out by him handing out notecards and asking us to put our names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers (if we were so inclined to share that info so that he could get a hold of us if there was something we missed...) and questions about what we thought we would learn in the class.  My questions were fairly straightforward, "What does it take to win a One Show Pencil?" and "What does it take to be a great publicist?"  Yes, you can tell, I've got my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the prize.  This is the big show, the place where I'll get the building blocks and learn in practice and theory what goes into Ad/PR.  From damage control to market research, from branding to placement, it all is going to happen this semester.  

Along the way, Doc S. asked the class who wanted to be involved in the creative end of the spectrum.  My hand shot up in the air so fast and it was undeniable what I want to do.  He looked at me and said, "You're...," I replied, "Sheri, sir," to which he followed with, "And what did you do during the semester break?"  I unabashedly replied, "I spent my winter break with my nose in "Hey Whipple Squeeze This" by Luke Sullivan.  I have a copy of the VW Lemon ad up on my wall and worship at its' altar daily."  You could tell he was quite impressed.  The VW Lemon ad, according to every single person in the advertising industry, is one of the greatest ads ever created.  It's brilliant, it's succinct and it has so much nutritional value it hurts.  It's THE AD.  It is the altar at which every great ad person worships.  Oh, but don't let me convince you, here, try it for yourself:

The copy reads:

This Volkswagen missed the boat.

The chrome strip on the glove compartment is blemished and must be replaced. Chances are you wouldn't have noticed it; Inspector Kurt Kroner did.

There are 3,389 men of our Wolfsburg factory with only one job; to inspect Volkswagens at each stage of production. (3000 Volkswagens are produced daily; there are more inspectors than cars.)

Every shock absorber is tested (spot checking won't do), every windshield is scanned. VWs have been rejected for surface scratches barely visible to the eye.

Final inspection is really something! VW inspectors run each car off the line onto the Funktionspr├╝fstand (car test stand), tote up 189 check points, gun ahead to the automatic brake stand and say "no" to one VW out of fifty.

This preoccupation with detail means the VW lasts longer and requires less maintenance, by and large, than other cars. (It also means a used VW depreciates less than any other car.)

We pluck the lemons; you get the plums.

OMG, just that last line..."We pluck the lemons; you get the plums."  Sheer genius.  VW ads are some of the best in the business.  Swoonfest over the Lemon Ad.  If you don't get it, that's ok, but Ad/PR folks see that ad and drool, praying that just once in their lifetime they'll ink something so sublimely perfect.

My goal is to take that ad and show it as a first generation of great advertising.  Yep that's right, it's my life's mission to take that ad and hold it up as the first generation, then break it down and come up with something that will be held up next to it as the next great generation of ads.  However high or audacious my goals may be, one must pay deference to one undeniable fact: great advertising all started with a Lemon.

Here, to boot, I'll show you the 2010 One Show "Best in Show," the 5-minute long "The Man Who Walked Around The World."  Now what I want you to look at is the placement of the props, and the message that it's portraying...the guy who wrote this ad, Justin Moore, will probably never have to look for work again for the rest of his natural life.  Gods, I love this ad.  It's so well done it's just gut-wrenching how good it is because it gives the product an idea of its' placement in the marketplace along with every little aspect that is considered part of an ad.  Oy veh.  If you'd like to see more One Show winners, go to http://www.oneclub.org/os/

Back to the class though.  We talked about how the line is blurred (to which I corrected, non-existent) between technology and advertising.  Doc S. talked about how in the age of media convergence that each type of technology serves another, print to web, web to radio, radio to TV, TV back to Web, it's all tied in together. (That's why Ad/PR isn't called "Ad/PR" anymore...it's now Integrated Marketing Communications because let's face it, all the platforms are integrated when it comes to pulling off a really great campaign.  Lucky for me, I've got the leg up on everyone else when it comes to the web portion.  Hey, I didn't get my AA for nothing!  It's actually being useful!  OMG!  So, I'm ok for this, I've got the writing, I've got the web and I've got creativity, that's just half of what I need, now it's on to learning the rest.

But overall Intro to IMC was a triumph.  It showed me I'm exactly where I need to be and on the path I should be on.  After class, I got a chance to talk one-on-one with Doc S.  He's a sweetheart of a man.  I let him know what I knew, then humbly begged to learn from him so that I could have the skills to really let my creative juices shine.  I want to have a strong base to work from so that way when I walk into a room, I'm not just some specialist in a particular thing, but a juggernaut with knowledge across the board and can hold my own. I just hope when it's all said and done that it results in people begging to throw money at me for my brains.  I know in my heart that I'm good, now I want to be great and be seen as great.  Tall order?  Yes.  But, it's a challenge I'm going to throw my heart and soul into.

This semester's project (which we'll be working on pieces of it all throughout the semester) is a campaign for, get this, a 'ready to eat' cereal.  Ok, what it means is that it's a box of cereal that you pour milk on.  Yeah, took me a bit for that one too.  Ok, new vocabulary phrase "ready to eat cereal" roughly means "Cheerios".  LOL.

Apparently he's going to give us the market research, let us taste it and so forth, then we get to knuckle down and name it, package it, brand it, place it, and the rest.  I knew in my heart that when you learn the business you have to start with the most mundane of products.  As I told Doc S. after class, "I'm getting into a field that all sane people in their right minds will do their best to avoid my work.  They'll Tivo past it, they'll get up to go to the bathroom when it comes on, and I have to make it so good that they'll stay and watch it."  Doc S. replied, "Sheri, you are music to my ears."  Awwww!  *giggle*

So, Intro to IMC?  Fabulous.  It's going to be a lot of work, it's going to be painful but I'm going to savor every moment, every page from the textbook, and every morsel I can get from Doc S.

To boot, it was a gorgeous spring day here in Vegas.  There were students wearing hoodies of every size, color and description, more pairs of designer sunglasses than you could ever possibly hope to shake a stick at.  Sitting outside on a bench waiting to go into IMC, I looked up at the most beautiful blue sky, marveled at the 70+ degree day we were given and soaked up the sunshine. I then watched the students, only to find them face down in their cellphones and not even bothering to look up.

Yeah, well, it's the aware and alive that make the big differences.  Let 'em stay tucked away in their technology, those of us who are present in their experiences always know to look up and be grateful for days like today.

So, let's give the preliminary verdicts on today's classes.  On a scale from 1-10, one being the worst and 10 being the best, History gets a five and a half, Intro to IMC gets a 10.

Tomorrow:  Global Media and Personal Growth along with about two miles worth of walking.

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