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The new VCU Advertising program

In the Fall ’08 semester, VCU ad majors will no longer take courses like Art Direction, Copywriting, Account Management, and Ad Campaigns. Instead they will be required to take courses called Touch, Empathy, Awareness, and Curiousness.

Before I tell you about those weird course names, let me tell you about the overall curriculum changes and why we needed them.

Why change?  The reason is a simple one:  The ad business has changed. We needed to change to at least catch up to what is happening in the industry:

– the business of brands is less about making ads.

– there’s more collaboration now:

– creatives (writers and designers) are no longer the sole providers of creative ideas.

– media planners must understand more than numbers.

– creatives need to understand the business side.

– there’s that digital thing.

– non-traditional advertising continues to grow.

– and people hate ads more than ever.

But instead of just redesigning the curriculum to catch up to the industry, our goal was to create a program that is positioned for where the leaders in the industry are headed. Smart, forward-thinking ad agencies are removing the titles and tearing down the silos that separated one department from the other (examples include the hottest agencies in the world:  Naked Communications, Mother, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, The Martin Agency).  These companies are not making ads, they are connecting consumers to their clients’ brands and products.

“Art Direction” was an ad course that had been around for as long students studied advertising; it was where students learned to layout an ad. However, consumers are not interested in seeing ads. “Imagination” is the new course where students learn about aesthetics, visualization, and communication that engages consumers.

Why course names that are attributes?  Mark Fenske, one of the designers of the new program, explains it this way: “We want to develop in students the same attributes found in superlative practitioners in the advertising field. By focusing the curriculum toward the development of attributes instead of specific pieces or types of work, students themselves—with direction—will create work not only in the traditional formats long taught in the school, but they will also naturally work in the newer media formats they are familiar with and interested in.”

Another benefit from the interesting course titles is that students will quickly know that these courses are designed to inspire fresh thinking.  This ain’t your grandfather’s ad program.


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