After three months of strategizing, concepting, and executing a fully integrated pitch for 3Derm, Account Executive Ashley Meehean and Art Director Abby Peterson celebrated success at the 4A’s Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies (IAAS) graduation ceremony last week. On the heels of this demanding course, we sat down with Ashley and Abby to chat about what they learned.
The past 12 weeks sounds like a professional development course on steroids. In addition to weekly classes, your team developed a fully integrated branding campaign with limited time and resources. Describe your experience in five words.
Ashley: It was a challenging balancing act. But in the end, a huge accomplishment.
Abby: educational, life-consuming, awesome people
What is the most valuable learning you gained from the program?
Ashley: Great insights are the key. Without them your campaign doesn’t stand a chance.
Abby: How to think strategically. As an art director, I’m always thinking creatively. This program reminded me of all the work that goes into a project before it even comes to creative strategy, and how every single thing you create has to have a purpose and feed back into the strategy.
What surprised you most about the experience?
Ashley: How quickly I forgot about the late nights and all of the extra work. Early today someone asked me if I would do it again. I said absolutely.
Abby: How well I got along with my group. I know it’s not true of everyone who does the program, but somehow we were lucky enough to get placed into a group of eight people who all clicked perfectly. We were always on the same level and pushing each other in great directions, so most arguments revolved around what we were going to order for dinner that night.
How will your participation in the program impact the way you do your job?
Ashley: It reminded me to take a step back. We’re all so busy trying to meet tight deadlines and manage a million projects. It’s important to get back to the basics – who are you talking to, how do they think, what are you trying to get them to do. This will bring you to your big idea. Once you have that, everything needs to connect back to it.
Abby: It has given me an appreciation for how great everyone I work with is at their job. Writing a brief is hard. Managing budgets is near impossible. Writing copy isn’t just strings of adjectives describing a product, apparently. It’s also given me a lot of really great presentation experience. I think I’ve come out of it a more well-rounded thinker and do-er.
Looking back, how did the experience compare to your expectations? What advice would you give future IAAS participants?
Ashley: It was completely nuts but totally worth it. Everyone warns you but you don’t really understand until you’re in it. I loved learning from the different industry experts each week. It was also a great lesson in working with your peers. I would say pick your battles and listen to each other. Don’t expect to sleep the week before your final presentation and invest in Crest Whitestrips. You’ll be drinking tons of coffee and wine over the next three months. Above all, stick it out because in the end you’ll feel like a rockstar.
Abby: It was a lot of work. I knew this going in, but it was definitely like a second job. The classes were a lot more helpful and relevant to the project than I expected them to be. The 4A’s gets the top people from their fields to come in and speak about their area of expertise, so you know that you’re getting really valuable insights. Some advice to future participants? Enjoy it. It’s easy to get caught up and forget that you signed up for this voluntarily. Get along with your group members, they got nominated too, so they can teach you something. And they’re probably pretty cool. You’re going to get out of this as much as you put in, so try hard. No point in spending three months on a project that you don’t care about. And even if you don’t win, it’ll be worth it once you’re done and you can look back and appreciate everything you’ve accomplished.