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Why Advertising

In all of my job searching, interviewing and writing cover letters, one question I usually get asked is, “Why advertising?” This isn’t new. It’s one of my extended family’s favorite questions to ask, along with “Are you seeing anyone?” and “Are you still doing that marathon thing? How far did you go this year?” (Ahhh, so close.) I’m used to it because my life path changed so drastically sophomore year from pre-med; everyone was pretty confused. I usually tell the story of the classes I was taking, the physicians I shadowed and what I went through when I was changing majors. But that’s the how. It’s not the why.

It can be hard to explain using words the feeling of being a perfect fit. The feeling that whatever direction I grow in will be accepted by this path. I love advertising and I know in my heart that I’m in the right place.

I love that we drive culture by being silly. “Hump day!” Anyone?

I love that we can show our sentimental, passionate sides without being made fun of. Thai Life Insurance “Unsung Hero”

I love that we can start conversations about important topics. Save the Children “Second a Day”, Chipotle “The Scarecrow”, Pantene “Labels Against Women”

I love that we can drive the bandwagon/brandwagon. Oreo “Dunk in the Dark”

I love that we have fun offices.

I love that you can get paid to manage social media. If that’s not the coolest job, I’m not sure what is.

I love that I get to feel useful. It’s not just data entry or cold calling, but something that really puts my education, skills and energy to use.

I love that people take chances on, and believe in, creativity.

I love that it’s a team sport but you still can shine as an individual.

I love that I don’t have to wear a pant suit every day.

I love that we follow technology, art, science and music to stay up-to-date.

I love that we can indulge in silly fads for the sake of consumer research.

I love that we get to tell stories.

I love that we get inside peoples’ minds.

I love problem solving. (“You think all paint rollers are the same? Well let me make this easy for you.”)

I love that we get to give advice and tell people what to do. Is that not fun? I think it’s fun.

I love that we get to make fun of ourselves.

I love that it’s survival of the fittest.

I love that we get to be self-important and give ourselves cool awards. Lions, Effies and CLIOs, oh my!

I love that we can take the mundane and make it inspiring.

I love that sometimes, we can make a difference.

Book Burning Party – Troy Library from Leo Burnett Detroit on Vimeo.

That’s my favorite campaign, ever, for a few reasons. I think watching this case study in class (again, Hi Joe Bob! Great class.) was the moment I knew I was in the right place. First, I connected to it because the agency was Leo Burnett Detroit and I grew up in a few suburban Detroit cities (Novi, Royal Oak, Dearborn and Troy). For reference, Eminem grew up on Eight Mile, and I spent a few years just off Ten Mile. My sister and I loved libraries growing up. My mom loves telling the story of my sister and I running inside, grabbing the closest colorful book, and reading in the giant bathtub in the Troy library. Why a library would decorate with an old bathtub I have no clue. But when we were younger (curly afros in their full glory), the Troy library was a favorite. We moved to North Carolina in 2000, and I didn’t think about those years in Michigan much as I got involved in school, sports and clubs. But there I was in class, and this video was like a direct line to those hours spent sitting in a giant bathtub with a book in my lap. And that bathtub is still there because of the campaign.

This case study told me about how something as unexpected as advertising, the thing I had been taught to think of as manipulation and a waste of money, saved my beloved childhood hangout. That realization itself showed me how advertising could get me to see things from a different angle. It made me aware of my pre-existing assumptions, and made me wonder, what else have I been close-minded about? That’s not who I want to be. I don’t want to work in a field that keeps me close-minded. I want a field that challenges me every day to see the world differently, like advertising. That is why I love working with creative people. I refuse to stagnate.

Like I said earlier, I had been taught that advertising is unnecessary and evil. Just the corporate busy bees manipulating us to buy their products. But that was just not true with “Book Burning Party.” Yes, sometimes it is just corporations wanting to bump sales up an extra percentage that quarter. And that’s great! It’s how things get done in capitalism. But sometimes it’s about making the world better. That keeps me going. Advertising isn’t all bad. Advertising is neutral, if anything. It’s the application of it that makes us see it as good or bad. I love that we can influence people that strongly. Just a few people meeting in a room leads to a whole wave of change. Is that not cool?

I love the creativity of this campaign. Who else could do this? Do you see a political party pulling this kind of thing off? I love that this is just one example of a creative campaign in advertising. This is just a snowflake on the iceberg.

For all these reasons, and more that are probably too silly for me to post, I love advertising. That’s why this question can be hard to answer. There’s no one answer that sums up why I know I’m in the right place. But I know I am.

**Any UNC juniors or seniors who think this life could be for you, I seriously encourage you to apply for NSAC, the National Student Advertising Competition. The application to be on UNC’s team with Joe Bob closes tonight at 5 p.m. Apply here! NSAC is the best possible thing you could do to gain real-world advertising experience without actually being in the real world. Plus it’s really fun. And the client is Pizza Hut this year. Can you say yummy research?

 

Disclaimer: Listicles are one of my pet peeves when it comes to writing, but I couldn’t help it. Sorry not sorry, internet.

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LLWOC: On Freshman Year

For my last last week of class (LLWOC), I’ve decided to dedicate each of the four days to reminiscing about each of the four years. Yesterday, Monday, was freshman year. So all day, the only music I listened to was from the time period of August 2010 and May 2011. Music, like scent, is one of those powerful things that can instantly transport you to a moment of time. In listening to these songs, I was carried through a lot of those little moments that slipped my mind, and it was really nice.

Last Friday Night, Cooler Than Me: Remember when these were the popular, overplayed songs on the radio? Hah!

The Lucky Ones: I thought I was pretty cool for discovering this singer-songwriter all on my own. I bought the whole album and listened to it often while making the 20-minute trek from good ol’ Craige to north campus. Gosh I can see it so clearly right now. Making a left out of my suite, down two flights of stairs, passing the magnolia leaves on the ground and sketchy bridge leading to the Manning/Ridge intersection, emerging out of the parking lot, waiting for the light outside Craige North, hating every single stupid loud beep from the crosswalk sign, climbing past Hardin and Morrison, through Rams, down Stadium, across South, and arriving to class thoroughly sweaty and out of breath. But I really loved that album. It was so soothing and seemed perfectly appropriate for my first year at UNC. Then, at a Clef Hangers concert when they were calling out alumni in the audience and they said Brendan James’ names, it all made sense.

Just The Way You Are, Misery, Fader, Black & Gold, Little Lion Man, Magic, Impossible: These are songs performed by a cappella groups that year. Shout out to the Achordants, Loreleis and Clef Hangers! After Sunset Serenade, a free a cappella concert on the quad the first week of classes, I was hooked. I became such an a cappella junkie. Not that I’m a particularly gifted singer myself, I just really loved hearing the groups perform together and make my favorite songs even better. When I first heard the Achordants sing Fader, I probably looked like Buddy the Elf meeting Santa Claus. My favorite song, sung by really cool people? Sounding even better? Best day ever! I was secretly one of the Achordants best fans for a while, not missing a single concert until junior year. I also made it to Clef Hangers, Loreleis, Cadence, Tar Heel Voices and Tarpeggios concerts over the years. They were all awesome. Just awesome.

Stereo Love, We R Who We R, Till The World Ends, No Hands, All Of The Lights, Driving Me Crazy: Ahh, yes. The songs of late night freshman year. The frat parties and the dorm rooms. I very clearly remember We R Who We R being the song I got ready to for my first Franklin Street Halloween experience. I remember Sammy Adams came to Lambda Chi that year for a concert. I didn’t actually get to go, but my suitemates did so I got to listening to his stuff. The rest of it, no good explanation. Bad music just happens sometimes.

Never Gonna Leave This Bed: This is the other hallmark album I associate with freshman year. I will only buy an entire album if I love every single song. And that was the case with this one. This song is still one of my all-time top favorites. I listened to this album so so much that year.

White Winter Hymnal, Your Ex-Lover Is Dead, Home: These songs are part of a moment halfway through freshman year. A couple of my friends lived in Morrison, so I was over there all the time. One night when we were in the lobby, they broke out a couple guitars and we started jamming. It didn’t matter if your voice was raspy or you didn’t know the lyrics. I think there were 7-8 of us. It all felt so natural and comfortable. It was a really good group of people and a great night. A lot of the time I spent with that group involved music actually; it’s something engrained in who they are and part of why I loved spending time with them.

The Show Goes On: I clearly remember this being a warmup song during my first ever Carolina basketball game. It was UNC vs. NC State. We won. It was awesome.

Life in Technicolor ii, I’m In Love, Teenage Wasteland: These are my freshman year UNC Dance Marathon songs. Life in Technicolor ii played in the background of a For the Kids story video, and from then on I associated this song with the organization and everything I love about it. Even this year I had it as the sound for alarms for UNC-DM events on my phone. I’m In Love is a song I remember being played at setup, as I was seeing it all come together for the first time. I don’t remember a lot from my first dance marathon– the earlier ones blend together– but I definitely remember that song and seeing my friends so excited to dance for 24 hours together. Teenage Wasteland. Ahh, the single song with the ability to make me emotional at the press of a button. This is the song that plays while the Executive Board reveals, one by one, the numbers that create the year’s fundraising total. I’ve written a lot about dance marathon, so you know how much it means to me already. I’ll just say the first time I saw the balloons drop after revealing the number was one of those eye-opening events that made me see things differently, permanently.

Such a happy little freshman

Such a happy little freshman

If I had known how much my decisions that year would come to affect who I am now, I think I would’ve been more deliberate about them. But then again, I’m glad I had no idea. I definitely heard people telling me that advice, but if I had taken the time to really grasp what all my decisions would come to mean, I’m sure it would’ve been a much more stressful year. Don’t get me wrong, parts of that year definitely were stressful. I was pre-med then, taking chemistry and biology classes way more difficult than I enjoyed at the time. I went through rush and joined a sorority. I was on the club field hockey team. I was in UNC-DM, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, and trying out a few other clubs. All things considered though, I was having a blast.

The first two weeks of UNC, from Carolina Kickoff and moving in to classes getting real, were two really awesome weeks. Coming from a small, nerdy high school where I wasn’t anyone spectacular, I was led to believe I was shy. I was incredibly nervous about being at such a big school. It was also my first time being completely on my own, in the sense of not being at the same school as my twin sister.  A place where I could be Renee, not “Michelle’s twin.” I don’t mean this at all in a negative way toward my sister. I only mean that having my own space to grow like UNC did a lot for my individuality and knowing who I am and what I stand for. The first two weeks I found out that I was actually a social person, and I loved meeting new people. More so than the people around me did. It was totally unexpected and I was loving it. That freshman mentality, when everyone is a potential best friend, is so valuable.  I was getting an early start on my bucket list and doing quintessential UNC things like getting YoPo with friends and riding a full circle on the P2P because at that time it was a wonderful, amazing system, so convenient for transporting students across campus. (Hah.)

It was a great first year. I found my niche and got into a groove. I met a ton of awesome people and got started on things that would grow in significance later. I started to love this school despite my initial hesitation.

Post about sophomore year next!

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For the Kids. Always.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while you could miss it.

You all know that quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It always looks alright with a decorative font overlaid on an out of focus, millennial existentialism-type photo on Pinterest. Something great to scroll past.

Until it becomes truer than true.

15 days after I stood on stage, held my digit, and watched 2,000 students collectively lose it when we revealed the 2014 final fundraising total, and a few hours after transition retreat ended, it just hit me. Like a train. The impact of what we’ve accomplished and how much we’ve grown.

It’s an overwhelming sense of pride, hope, joy, camaraderie, wonder and sparkle. I don’t know exactly what triggered it a few minutes ago. I was just clearing my inbox, getting ready to pass it to Brendan, and scrolling through some photos from earlier this year when all at once the wall I had built (out of necessity) to stave off the imminent emotional roller coaster came crashing down. Sure, I ugly cried with everyone else when we found out the final number, $551,595.87, in the Executive Board room moments before revealing it to the dancers. I had my moments of pride in the nights and days after. And I knew, definitely knew, that what we did was both unprecedented and immensely impactful. But there’s a difference between knowing and feeling in your soul. When the glowing golden fibers of knowledge have intertwined themselves with the essential strands of who you are.

And that’s what it feels like. Everything has an extra shine to it. Earlier, people would say congratulations, we’re so proud of you, and wonderful, supportive things like that, and I could say thank you! Thank you so much for visiting/donating/supporting! And I meant every syllable of it. But it’s a whole new level of gratitude if you can grasp, even a little bit, the idea of your piece in the larger puzzle. I am so grateful for the people who have helped me grow into the person I am and the people who helped us reach this place. It’s been a year and 15 days since I found out I was on the 2014 Executive Board for UNC Dance Marathon. Between then and now, hundreds, thousands, of people have helped shape our dream into a reality. I will do my best to properly thank those people. I only have a little bit of time between now and separating from this college bubble, probably including the majority of those people, but I can at least try.

I had built a barricade against the wave of emotions, much like beach towns prepare for a hurricane with sand bags along the coast, because I thought for sure that once it hit me I would break down. I knew I was in the warpath of a barrage of all-consuming positive emotions, and I didn’t know my capacity for them because I hadn’t been in a position quite like this before, where the greater organization’s success was closely related to my own personal successes. I had built a mental storage area for all those thoughts, to pocket them for a later, more convenient time to sink in.

Well here we are. It took 15 days, and I knew it was coming eventually. All of my dance marathon friends around me had their moments at the marathon or shortly after it ended, and I told them, “it’ll hit me later. I’m just in shock.” Which is partly true, because it truly was a shocking accomplishment (by my interpretation anyways, to watch us go from zero to more than a half-million dollars because of the hard work and dedication of my very talented friends). The other part was the wall. Like the quote at the beginning of this post, I was moving too fast. I wasn’t stopping, and I was missing it. It being life, the little moments, allowing myself to ruminate and think deeply. I don’t recommend that life to any of the new Executive Board members, or anyone really.  In addition to serving as the 2014 Publicity Chair for UNC Dance Marathon, a full-time job in itself, I was in 15 credit hours, working an internship with  international travel, acting as lead presentation designer for UNC’s National Student Advertising Competition, helping out with the occasional thing for my sorority or Camp Kesem, and trying to keep up with normal human being things like friend time and exercise. I don’t regret a single one of those choices, and don’t know how I would’ve chosen which one to cut out if I had to do it all again. I’m not the kind of person who can easily walk away from something I care deeply about, and I am the kind of person who quickly falls in love with the things I’m involved in. So I try to do it all.

With that means never stopping. As soon as dance marathon ended I was expecting this huge sense of release and well, free time. But that didn’t happen because with the pub chair position comes wrap-up publicity and coordinating final details in the weeks following. Additionally, NSAC (the advertising competition team I mentioned earlier) had two busy periods. The first was during my personal busiest week: the 26-page plans book for which I was a designer was due March 21 at 5 p.m. And guess what began at 7 p.m. March 21? Just the 24-hour event culmination of my entire collegiate career. The second busy period was immediately after dance marathon ended. The district competition in which 8 teams from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia present our campaigns was April 4, so the time between dance marathon and districts was a rush to put together a presentation, and for me, lead the design process for it. Now that another NSAC busy phase has passed (P.S. WE WON OUR DISTRICT! Broke UVA’s 10+ year winning streak!) and UNC-DM has selected and transitioned in a new Executive Board, the wall holding back all those thoughts I’d been saving for later isn’t as necessary. Not that it ever really was, I realize now.

Admittedly, I had putting off this post as long as I could. I knew there was an element of timeliness that needed to be in any of my post-marathon writing, but I’m glad I didn’t just churn out something for the sake of putting it out there quickly. My mind wasn’t in the right place. So, as I was sitting at my computer and mentally going through the rest of the steps to letting go of UNC-DM and passing the torch to Brendan, it happened. And now I think I can start letting go.

UNC-DM has been my home for the past four years. It was there from the beginning, before I even moved into my freshman dorm. It’s where I found my closest friends and inspiration. Taught me life skills like time management and delegation. Professional skills like AP style and Illustrator. It introduced me to the world of communications and helped me find a major/future career path where my passion, creativity and skills intersect: advertising. It taught me how to relate to fellow humans and see the world beyond my two feet. Showed me the strength of a team. Helped me realize that you can do it all: do a job that you love, surrounded by people who love you, and make a difference in the world. Almost every development in my character since freshman year, every triumph and discovery, I credit to UNC Dance Marathon and the people I met through it.

It’ll break your heart. You fall so completely in love with this organization and the people in it. You fall in love with the cause, the event, the little things. You fall in love with the way it makes you feel, and how connected you become to every other person there. You fall in love with the joy and the passion, both your own and the people’s around you. UNC Dance Marathon embodies everything great about this university. It showcases the best in its students. Through every hardship, we are there for each other. We look beyond our small sphere and find a way to make a difference in this world. We carry each other to be best possible versions of ourselves. We aren’t afraid to lean on our friends. And it all ends. But it doesn’t. You will be heartbroken because it’ll never be the same. You’ll never get to walk into Fetzer for the first time again, awestruck by the banners and lights. But you carry the best of it with you and cheer as part of the alumni family. And the three letters “FTK” will always hold a special significance.

It’s a simple, three word phrase. It means through everything we do and everything we say, there is something larger at the root of what we do. For UNC-DM, FTK is the patients and families of N.C. Children’s Hospital. For DM NSCU, it’s the miracle children from Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. FTK is our torch for lighting a fire within each and every student involved; teaching them how to be a great, and inherently good citizen of the world, ready to lend a hand to anyone who needs it. It varies from school to school and organization to organization, but no matter what organization you’re a part of or what the cause is, environmentalism, human rights, disability awareness, you recognize the same light burning within. Different organizations have different torches, but the fire burns just as bright in everyone. My fire was lit by UNC-DM and FTK. That will always be true. I might fall in love with another organization down the road, but UNC-DM will always be special for being the spark to illuminate the part of me that I’m most proud of.

Always, always, I will be FTK.

The 2014 UNC Dance Marathon raised $551,595.87 For the Kids!

The 2014 UNC Dance Marathon raised $551,595.87 For the Kids!

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Marathon week!

So there are three days until this event that I’ve been sort of kind of involved in making happen for the past year or whatever.

The largest student fundraiser on campus or in North Carolina.

The single largest donor to North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

Totally calm.

My to-do list is kind of all around me: random artboards in Illustrator, Executive Board meeting minutes, my iPhone notes, sticky notes on my desk, written on my hand, class notes, task list in gmail, Google docs. Really just whatever is closest. I did retrace my steps and compile everything on a few sheets of paper Monday; that helped. Feeling good. Things are happening. Media is responding, graphics are going up, flyers being printed, videos being published, newsletter sent out. Committee members have their tasks for Friday and Saturday. Ready!

What I’m not ready for: this ending. Standing on stage at 7:20 p.m., standing with 13 friends in blue polos, flipping up a poster with a single digit, my number in the final fundraising total reveal. Jumping around and watching the balloons drop. Taking it all in as 2,000 students see the larger impact of their efforts — something that we made possible with this event. How do you let go of something that has played such a large role in shaping who you are and driven a lot of your decisions for the past four years?

That moment isn’t the end, but it is the beginning of the end. After that, we’ll release wrap-up and celebratory publicity in the coming weeks and transition to next year’s Executive Board. Then I let go. Two weeks and I let go.

Luckily my to-do list is long enough to distract me at least for a week. [Side note: I’ll be on the radio doing a live interview about UNC-DM today! Tune into WCHL 97.9 at 4:40 p.m.] I don’t have to think about it until then. But it’s definitely in the back of my mind. I’ve been getting sentimental at every little thing– the last marathon committees meeting, learning my last committee dance, watching the bucket list video, responding to media requests about what UNC Dance Marathon means to me.

I encourage everyone reading this post to visit us at the 16th annual UNC Dance Marathon this Friday and Saturday from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 7:30 p.m. Saturday. This organization has been the single involvement that has most shaped who I am and what I want to do after graduation. Being a part of it and having the opportunity to serve on the Executive Board this year has been a huge honor, and something I wouldn’t trade for anything. I would love to share it with anyone even remotely interested. Let me know if you plan on coming!

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Running into old friends

Literally, running into old friends!

One of the things I love about living in Cary over the summer is that I don’t have to worry about seeing people I know when I look crummy, but tonight didn’t work out that way. Jenn and I crossed paths on our evening runs (she was already 1.5 hours into hers, I just started) and what I had planned on being a quick jog turned into an hour of catching up.

Let me start by saying she’s in way better shape than me, so when you imagine our conversations, you can imagine me being really out of breath.

It’s so crazy how similar our undergrad paths are, and also so different. Jenn is five years ahead of me as a member of the class of 2009. She and I are both 4-year dancers for UNC Dance Marathon, counselors for Camp Kesem, and members of Panhellenic organizations. We both also went through the experience of jumping around majors and pursuing many paths. That’s where we differ; she tended toward law and organizational development when I tend toward advertising and creative work. The weirdest part is that I had no idea of any of this. We fell out of touch, understandably, as she went to Carolina and got really busy, and then I started Carolina right after she graduated. But somehow we got involved in very similar avenues. Tell me that isn’t cool!

We spent a lot of time together during my middle school and her high school years. Jenn was a tutor/babysitter (realizing now that we were way too old for a babysitter, but that’s my parents) for my sister and I. We played tennis, did homework, prepared for her prom, talked about friends, asked for advice, went shopping, you name it. My parents loved having her around because she was undoubtedly a great influence on 13-year-old twins with too much energy, and we loved spending time with Jenn because we thought she was the coolest person in the history of ever.

Still do, by the way. And especially after our chat tonight! She is a grad student at Duke, employee at a consulting firm for the UN in New York and world traveler. It’s awesome to see her now a few years later and see how both of us have grown since our time in Cary together. I’m definitely at a turning point in my life since I’m about to graduate UNC in a year, and she’s at a major crossroads as well as she decides her future path. It’ll be interesting to see what’s next for both of us.

I’m not sure how to conclude this, so I’d rather not. Who says you have to tie up relationships neatly with a bow, and store them away for later? I say keep the book open and let the story continue. I probably won’t see her again for a while, but that just means we’ll have all the more to talk about next time.

Until next time!

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