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Just Doing It


By Lili Weigert

Published Oct 1, 2015 8:00 AM

The Institute for Advanced Advertising Studies pits teams of students against each other.


Adriana Trang's team, "Tractor Beam," created this logo to represent their agency.

Every Monday night from February through May, a group of advertising’s rising stars attends a course in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Chosen for their promise, the 42 students represent the best and brightest junior talent from advertising agencies across Los Angeles.

Sponsored by “the 4A’s” (the Association of American Advertising Agencies), this is the Institute for Advanced Advertising Studies — a course that pits teams of students against one another to see who can come up with the best advertising campaign. Now in its 53rd year, the institute runs in 10 different cities and is considered a rite of passage for ambitious young advertising professionals.

“To call it rigorous is an understatement,” says UCLA alumnus Cliff Scott, who directs the Southern California program. “I call it the greatest thing I’d never want to do.” Scott has run the course since 2007; in 2009, he moved it from Loyola to UCLA, a move he calls a “win/win” because the academic prestige of the university and the professional prestige of the course enhance each other’s reputations.

One of the students in this year’s class was Andriana Trang ’12, who works on the Team Mazda car account for an Orange County agency called The Garage.

“It got intense really fast,” she says. During the 16-week course, Trang and her team worked late nights and every Sunday on a campaign for Farmers Insurance. On Monday nights, local advertising professionals took them through the steps of creating a campaign, and each team presented its campaign to a panel of judges that included the client and local ad agency executives.

Trang’s team’s campaign targeted millennial consumers purchasing car insurance for the first time. Their research suggested that millennials want to be respected, and react well to pitchmen who seem empathetic. Farmers’ current spokesman, Professor Nathaniel Burke (played by Oscar winner J.K. Simmons), gives the brand credibility, but the situations he appears in aren’t relevant to younger drivers. Instead, the team’s campaign showed him interacting with YouTube stars.

Trang’s team didn’t win, but she welcomed the chance to network with senior-level staff and with the younger rising stars. As a member of the demographic herself, Trang objects to what she considers the myth of the millennial as irresponsible and entitled. The course enabled her to push back against these preconceptions about her generation.