What NSAC has taught me (so far)

I had always heard that competing in the National Student Advertising Competition takes up all of your time.

My friends who did it last year tell scary stories about late night arguments and people shouting at each other. I only half-listened as they went on and on about the stress that NSAC caused them, all the while thinking about how silly it is to stay up into the early hours of the morning working on something as trivial as a SWOT analysis or what format to use to convey your research in a limited amount of space.

Sometime between October and now, it hit me. It snuck up on me, and I didn’t even realize exactly how much NSAC had taken up of my life until now.

I dream about paint. I wish I were kidding, but it’s true. I literally woke up from a dream where I was painting my living room. I ran out of paint and wanted to cry.

That would be fine, but it isn’t the first time this dream has happened.

I’m not bashing it in any way; I love NSAC. But now that I’m in it, I get it. I understand why it’s important to stay up to make sure that a SWOT analysis is inclusive of everything you need it to be and why wording within copy matters and why the logisitics of a promotional idea are so important.

Putting together a good campaign takes time. It takes tension and stress and late nights. It takes honesty, which isn’t always easy to give people. It takes thinking as a group and being OK with the fact that you won’t always have the best idea.

I’ve learned so much through doing NSAC so far, and it isn’t even over yet. Not even slightly. But I would like to share some of the things I have learned thus far, so those who do it later will know what to expects.

1. Speak up

If you have an opinion, voice it. You’re there for a reason, and it isn’t to look cute. (It’s OK to look cute, but that’s not why you’re there.) If something sounds off to you or seems weird or off track, say it. Get clarification. Chances are, other people are thinking the exact same thing. Your opinion matters. Remember that.

2. Have thick skin

You won’t always have the best idea. In fact, most of your ideas will be shot down and criticized. That’s OK. The important thing is to have ideas, but don’t get attached to them. Oftentimes, and especially in our campaign, no single idea has come from one person. It started out as a thought and others added on to it. We all own a part of this campaign, but none of us own all of it. No idea can truly be credited to one person in particular because although they might have suggested it, most of the time it turns out different from what they had intended.

You’re going to make suggestions. Some of them will be accepted, most of them will be criticized. Which leads me to the next point.

3. Always back up your ideas

You need to know exactly why your idea is a good idea. How will it help our client? How is it unique? How does it overcome the barriers we are trying to navigate?

If you can answer those questions, then maybe you have a good idea. Back it up with facts. Back it up with details. Know why you think it is a good idea, and sell others on it. If it’s good, it has to be well developed. You have to think through your idea’s weaknesses (no idea is perfect).

4. Stop working alone

Although we get sidetracked by YouTube and spontaneous trips to get food, working in a group is quite efficient. People will have other ideas than you. They’ll look at situations differently. You feed off of each other and build on each other’s strengths (at least, ideally you do). People can look at your ideas objectively. They can see holes in your idea that you missed. More ideas are generated in groups and a small idea can grow into the big idea through group work.

Plus, it’s a lot more fun if other people are stuck helping you late at night to get something done.

5. $10 million is not a lot of money

I never thought I would think that $10 million is not enough money before this campaign. Developing promotions and media around a limited budget for a national campaign is difficult. It makes you plan strategically, and it can also cause arguments among the group as to where that money should be allocated (though that has not happened much yet).

Having said that, you have to work with what you’re given. As much as we would love a $25 million budget, we don’t have that. We can’t run ads on network television, but that’s OK. A good campaign is not defined by its budget. Some very effective campaigns required a small budget. Finding a way to maximize our reach with limited funds has been a fun and growing challenge for our team.

6. Make friends with other team members

You spend a lot of time with them. Literally every day. You’ll spend late nights with them. It’s natural to become more than team members. Go to parties together. Eat dinner together. DON’T talk about NSAC outside of a meeting together. Ask them about their dogs. Learn about their love lives. What do they listen to? Buy them a birthday card. It makes NSAC more fun when you do it with your friends.

7. Just enjoy it

You’ll learn a lot and gain valuable experience. But make sure you enjoy it, too. It’s a blast.

The biggest stories in advertising in 2012

Advertising Age wrote a great article  about the biggest trends and news stories of the year.

It covers almost everything, from JC Penney trying (and basically failing) to reinvent retail to Super PACs failing to “buy” the presidential election.

A lot has happened this year. Hurricane Sandy shut down businesses, particularly advertising and public relations, for days. Newsweek is joining the future and discontinuing printing a physical copy of their publication (in addition, The New York Times has cut back on how many days they publish).

It’s been a busy year.

New Years Resolutions

I’ve never been a big fan of new years resolutions. I’ve always thought that if you truly wanted to change something about yourself, you would start immediately.

I have, however, always been a fan of new beginnings. The best new beginning is the start of a new year.

When I think about where I was at the beginning of 2012 and where I am now, it’s almost like night and day. I ended toxic relationships, made some great new friendships, grew professionally and emotionally, took risks, won awards, interned for a company that I love, ran in elections and won everything I ran for.

I had a lot of personal victories in 2012. I had some of my highest and proudest and funnest moments of my life. Looking at who I was at the beginning of the year and who I am now, it seems like so much has changed. But at the same time I feel exactly the same.

I made a simple and abstract resolution last year: Do great things.

That’s exactly what I did. I am proud of my accomplishments. 2012 was my year. I know that 2013 will be my year as well. I plan on taking risks, putting myself out there, talking to people I normally wouldn’t, trying things outside of my comfort zone and stretching myself to see my true potential.

2012 was a gem. 2013 has a lot to live up to.

Happy New Year everyone!

Falling down a mountain, quarter-life crisis and Christmas in a blizzard

A lot has been going on the past few weeks.

This semester flew by faster than I could blink. Everyone says that, but it literally feels like  just yesterday I was moving into my first house.

Junior year has flown by. Next semester, I turn 21. This summer, I do an internship and work. Then my senior year of college, which I’ve heard goes by faster than anything. And then the real world.

Scary, right?

Which leads me to this: I’ve been in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. I’m almost out of school and about to start a career. By this point, I thought I’d have everything together. I thought I’d know the exact job I want when I graduate (I have it narrowed down to the right field, at least) and where I want to live.

Maybe it’s good not  to know. My “grown up” life is about to begin, and I’m not sure ready for whatever is coming because I have no earthly idea what to expect. But it’s a good thing because I am open to anything.

On a side note, I’m in Colorado right now. We’ve been skiing in some of the best snow I’ve ever seen. My sister and I decided to attempt a double diamond black on my first day back on the slopes in two years. For non-skiers, a double diamond black is literally the hardest slope you can do. I was scared to death. I literally looked down and saw my life flash before my eyes. It was basically a 90 degree angle. But I went for it.

I fell. Hard. Not a little fall. It was so steep that I kept falling. I lost my poles, both skis and almost an arm. I fell halfway down the run. I screamed some words I don’t think my sister knew that I knew.

I had to get back up. I had to climb up and collect my skis and my poles and put myself back together. More importantly, I had to get down the mountain. On the same slope that tried to kill me.

By some act of God, I did it. I survived. I can brag about it. I’m not going to go into some lame analogy about how my life is like the mountain and I am the skier. But now you’re thinking it and can draw your own conclusions.

By the way, I owned that slope once I got back up.

Happy Christmas Eve!