An open message to ad students

As the manic panic about coronavirus is blasting on TV and in our social feeds 24/7, you might think that all is lost and no hope is in sight and that we're all just one sneeze away from a post-apocalyptic society where government employees in dystopian grey hazmat suits spray citizens with hand sanitizer cannons and that, when available, oak leaf "toilet paper," costs $7,000 on the black market behind the burned-out Target.

I have news for you. It's going it's be okay.

On September 11th, my dad, then a reporter for a local NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh, stood outside the wreckage of flight 93 in Somerset County, reporting to the country (because he got picked up nationally) about the horrid atrocities that happened and were still happening all around us. How he kept his stoic objectivity is a testament to his talents as a journalist. I wish more people would emulate it instead of playing the ratings game at all costs.

I mention this incident because in the wake of September 11th, I was set to start at the Creative Circus in Atlanta, Georgia. To say these were bleak times is an understatement and one that didn't scream auspicious beginnings. Looking back, I'm glad I was in school then. Just as I was glad to work in Canada during the financial crisis in 2008 when peoples' 401k's were halved.

There will always be Serious Moments™ and we will be forced to deal with them in one way or another. In addition to the above, I've also weathered the storm of losing two parents as well as other family issues that took a few years to resolve themselves. What these times teach us is that we are more resilient and resourceful than we realize.

Some time during my first year of advertising, while I was still trying to figure out how to write headlines that didn't suck and come up with concepts that weren't cliché, I had an epiphany. I was a copywriter on paper. In reality, I was a problem solver. A simple equation revealed itself: The best advertising solves problems. The best problem solvers make great advertising.

While I was in portfolio school, I made up my mind to strive to be the best problem solver I could be. I still strive for this. But the striving taught me that when the nastiness of life rears its ugly head, the problem solvers will be okay. They are well-equipped to handle and manage the chaos. They might even find a solution to it.

As we're now most likely working and studying from home, we're spending more time online (as if that were possible.) While that helps from a connection standpoint, a steady diet of pundits telling you it's the end of the world doesn't help.

The good news is for the vast majority for us, it isn't the end of the world. Unforeseen and forced as it is, this extra time not commuting gives us a few hours each day to practice our problem solving abilities, learn a new skill and improve in as many ways as possible. Whether it's art, or copy, digital, planning, UX, developing or research-- now's the time to get better. You can also start exercising since you most likely broke your New Year resolution on January 3rd.

You can also help alleviate your own stress and anxiety by thinking less about your situation and helping others. For instance, offer to go grocery shopping for a senior citizen in your apartment complex. If you belong to a church or organization, reach out and see if there's something you can do. Being proactive in the face of negativity helps a lot. It would be crass to call this situation a blessing in disguise. But it is a very real opportunity, not a setback.

If any later-quarter students reading this are worried that there won't be a job when they graduate, repeat after me; There will always be a job. Just keep working on your book.

We've all been through some stuff. Inevitably, we'll go through similar trials in the future. But if you keep your perspective, it'll all be fine. Think about it this way-- there's no other way to improve your problem-solving skills unless you're faced with a challenge, right?

In the meantime, if there are any portfolio students who want their book critiqued, do me a fave please and reach out. I've got extra time.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wash my hands.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

Thanks for this great message.

Class of 2022's picture

i just wanted to say thanks man it''s a weird time right now and i was getting worried i''m only on my firts quarter in portfolio school and suddenly it''s like the world is ending and i was worried about how this will affect future jobs

Shaban's picture

I am with you on helping others to help yourself alleviate the stress. I myself am from Kosovo and have gone through a war and a very long time of poverty, so this virus is not very panic-inducing.

Students here are all taking classes online, everything is business as usual:

Good luck to you with the virus and hope you and everyone vulnerable comes out unscathed!

Mo Abboud's picture

I really needed to hear this today. I've taken on huge loands to be able to go to college and now I'm not even in College, and the future seems so uncertain. Thank you.

Pep le pew's picture

I've never been as inspired to help local and small businesses as I am now. I am using my creativity to help them stay afloat. I may not be a Doctor, or a nurse, but we all have skills that can be used and creative solutions are what I can do.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

I was cleaning up my bookmarks when I found this again.
I had just ended an internship when lockdown began, and I didn't know what to do with myself.
I looked around and realized that all of my local greasy spoons were closing, and I took your advice, I helped them. Some of the things that I did taught me how to use payment systems and I learned a lot. What I learned then got me into my job today. So thank you.