Summer seminar pens white paper on innovation in advertising agencies

It’s hard to fit a semester’s worth of class material into a four-week summer class, but thanks to Jay Hamilton, associate professor and head of the Entertainment and Media Studies department at Grady College, a fresh approach was developed for his JRMC 8130 class, Special Topics in Advertising. The result was a project written in the style of an industry white paper, “Innovation in advertising: insights for success in an ever-evolving industry.”

Instead of the typical class lecture and a ton of reading, Hamilton tasked his class of five graduate students with foreshadowing what it takes to be an innovative advertising agency in today’s environment. They did this through industry readings, relying on what they already knew about the industry and what Hamilton refers to as creative speculation.

View this white paper

“I really enjoyed this type of learning experience,” said student Erin Geoffroy, a Grady College graduate student and communication strategist for the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “Advertising is a rapidly-evolving industry so academic readings and papers quickly become out of date and, therefore, it's difficult to grasp a strong understanding of what's happening in agencies today. Dr. Hamilton's class allowed us to identify the current trends in agencies and be forward looking to predict where innovation will happen in the future.”

Each student assumed main authorship responsibilities for a section, with a lot of group collaboration throughout. The sections included in the paper were Research and Innovation, Media Technology, Creative Work, User-generated Content and Ethical Practice.

“The most surprising insights we arrived at were not so much about the content of advertising, but the form and organization,” said Hamilton. “In particular, a great surprise was how central compelling stories have become to innovative advertising, and how the centrality of stories connects to facets of advertising as diverse as ethics, creative effectiveness and user-generated content.”

Keeping the students motivated and on track in this fast-paced class was essential.

“Only a very high-quality and skilled student would be capable of doing what I asked them to do, and this speaks volumes about the quality of students not only at Grady, but who are also enrolled in the ADPR 4+1 master's degree program,” Hamilton continued. “What really kept us going was the project’s creativity and applicability. We were finding questions and deciding how they could be answered in ways that few other people had done. And, too, we remained confident that the insights we came to can be of great use to many people in advertising who are grappling with this issues. The final report would easily fit in on any advertising manager’s desk.”  

A summary of key insights from the paper include:

» Technology will be increasingly central in all stages of the campaign process, but as a catalyst rather than the driver.

» Real-time insights and constant conversations will encourage advertising to function increasingly as an iterative process.

» Increased user involvement will enhance the importance of transparency. 

Date: August 14, 2015
Author:  Sarah Freeman,