Perspective on Young Globals: Laurence Minsky, Associate Professor, Columbia College Chicago

The Young Globals Student Competition and Internship Program is the Global Awards investment in the future of Healthcare and Wellness advertising and Young Globals award-winners are the next generation of healthcare and wellness advertising creatives. Now in its third year of championing young creatives, the Young Globals is the only college/portfolio school competition for healthcare advertising that offers students the opportunity to submit creative work and be recognized with a prestigious Global Award, and introduces students to the rewards of working in the healthcare and wellness advertising industry.

2015’s Young Global’s winning campaign “Eat Smart” created by Columbia College students: Antonio Perez - art direction, Sara VonderHaar - art direction, Brian Hodes - strategy/copy, and Pilar McQuirter - digital strategy/creative strategy was mentored throughout the campaign process by Columbia College Chicago Associate Professor, Laurence Minsky.

Recognized for his strategic as well as creative skills, Mr. Minsky has broad experience as an Educator/Marketing Strategist/Creative Director/Copywriter. He currently applies his skills and knowledge as Associate Professor (tenured) in the Department of Communication & Media Innovation of the School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago and as a consultant for leading agencies, corporations, and non-profit throughout America.

Mr. Minsky is the Executive Editor of The Get A Job Workshop: How to Find Your Way to a Creative Career in Advertising, Branding, Collateral, Digital, Experiential & More, the author of the critically acclaimed How to Succeed in Advertising When All You Have is Talent, and a co-author of Advertising and the Business of Brands (Media Revolution Edition) and 25 Words or Less. He has been published by the Harvard Business Review, Marketing Profs, and the Data-Driven Marketing Network, among others.

He has worked full-time for many prominent agencies and has created marketing and communications solutions for a robust number of blue chip clients including Aon, AT&T Wireless, Black & Decker Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dean Foods, Diners Club, Frito-Lay, GE, Google, S.C. Johnson & Sons, Kraft, McDonald’s, MTV, Sears, Tropicana and United Airlines.

An award-winning creative, Mr. Minsky has also served on the jury for a variety of industry competitions. He is a member of The One Club for Art and Copy, The Authors Guild, and the American Academy of Advertising.

In the interview below, Mr. Minsky shares his thoughts on the Young Globals, his experiences mentoring the students, how he fosters creativity in the classroom and much more.

Global Awards: What is your opinion of the Young Globals competition?

Laurence Minsky: As a professor of advertising, I think it’s great in many ways. For starters, one of my goals is to get students to think about all of the opportunities and specialties in advertising — not just pursuing big consumer agencies — and the Young Globals inspires students to think about healthcare / pharma as a possibility. I also obviously think the Young Globals brief is a great teaching tool. It’s makes students think about wellness — an important topic for everyone — and that marketing communication strategies and tactics can be employed for goals beyond merely driving additional transactions or building consumer brands. Plus, the competition invited students to stretch both their strategic and creative abilities and solve a broad marketing problem, rather than just asked them to create yet another cute piece of communications. Finally, the internship opportunity for the winner is amazing and underscores that pharma as a focus area is a possibility even right out of college.

Global Awards: What was your experience in mentoring the students through the development of their campaign through the entry process?

Laurence Minsky: I found the process to be energizing. The students were highly motivated and focused and while I believe many didn’t know each other before the class started, worked together like they were a seasoned team. All of the students in the course, made my job really easy. Rather than needing to spend my time addressing teamwork issues, I was able to spend it asking questions that helped them get unstuck and think through the brief and all the details of the programs my students were proposing. The most surprising part of the process was once they found out they won, most of them individually asked me if I would be getting a trophy as well. (It’s not part of the contest.) It was this spirit of graciously sharing credit, rather than trying to grab it, that was inherent in their collaborative process – as well as in the collaborative process of the other teams that were formed in the course.

Global Awards: How did you become aware of the Young Globals and why did you introduce students to the competition?

Laurence Minsky: Lots of snacks. Seriously, I tried to make the classroom environment as close as possible to actual agency settings. The interactions fairly informal. We didn’t have desks. Rather, we worked around tables, more like a conference room setting. We played music at times. We looked at award-winning campaigns from a variety of categories and a range of contests. Students brought their lunches. And, we followed the natural ebb and flow of brainstorming and creative development process, rather than the structure of traditional classrooms with pre-scheduled breaks and lecture and discussion periods.

Global Awards: What is your mentoring process with your students?

Laurence Minsky: I try to teach the theory from the practical. I toss students into a problem and then help them work through it, using the key points to teach the theory. So, in this case, I gave the assignments, they started discussing them. During this time, the teams naturally formed. And then I just went around to the teams one-on-one, looked at their work, asked questions, suggested resources, and, I hope, helped them understand the bigger picture from the specifics.

Global Awards: What was the timeline for the students to create their campaign?

Laurence Minsky: The students created the entire campaign in four days, nine to five (plus, some continued working on it during the evenings at home). Traditionally, courses at Columbia College Chicago are taught in three hours blocks once a week. But we have a J-Term where we can teach different sorts of courses on various timelines.  In the course, we had eight students, divided into three teams (some students worked on more than one team). And I had two of the teams working on answering the Young Globals brief and one team working on a different competition. The projects were ready for upload by the Friday afternoon,

Global Awards: How do they decide who will participate on their team?

Laurence Minsky: The process was very organic. Students at Columbia College Chicago are trained to collaborate. When I assigned the projects, they just started talking, bringing in their individual perspectives, interests, and training to the projects and the people that clicked formed teams.  Since each member of each team had a different major: Advertising Art Direction, Comedy Writing and Performance with a minor in Creative Advertising (perfect for copywriting), Graphic Design, Advertising (with an interest in account services and strategic planning), and Marketing Communication with a focus in Public Relations (and interest in Social Media and Strategic Planning).  That’s how we want it at Columbia College Chicago: People with different skill sets working together and building on each other’s insights and interests, just like the real world. 

What was the most rewarding aspect of the Young Globals competition for you and for the students?

Laurence Minsky: First, as I’d mentioned earlier, the gracious sharing of credit.  And then seeing the big ideas and the programs being developed. They all found really interesting areas and created viable interesting solutions. One team is actually now looking at actually producing their solution and turning it into a commercial product.

Global Awards: What advice would you give to future students who would like to enter the Young Globals?

Laurence Minsky: Open your mind to the possibilities.  It sounds cliché – and it really is – but I see too many students jumping right to a solution without exploring the outer reaches.  Look for the emotional insight and the behavioral one and then find the intersection.  And, I would say collaborate.  The solutions will end up being bigger than the sum of the individual skill sets.

Global Awards: As a professor, is healthcare and wellness advertising typically something that would be covered in your curriculum?

Laurence Minsky: At Columbia College Chicago, we like to expose our students to all of the specialties, so they will think beyond just a career at the big consumer agencies. It’s not that big agencies are bad and we have lots of students getting hired by them upon graduation (and some even before), but they are not ones only avenue to success. And a big consumer agency career might not be the right avenue for an individual’s success.

Global Awards: What skills or traits are necessary for a student to excel in the field of advertising? 

Laurence Minsky: I believe it’s more the soft skills or traits – drive, passion, curiosity, determination, creativity, collaboration, grit – that will eventually determine success in the industry.  The harder skills of design, writing, creative problem solving, and research, among others, can be taught. So in many ways, the real job of the instructor is to make sure the soft skills thrive to enable students to successfully learn the hard skills.  When students acquire both the soft skills and the hard skills, they will truly thrive in the industry.

Global Awards: How is your curriculum evolving with the industry?

Laurence Minsky: The content of the courses is changing just as fast as the industry itself. Rather than launching many new courses, we first work to update existing courses.  For instance, take Advertising Copywriting.  Advertising back then needed copy.  And communication today needs copy.  The style has changed and the touchpoints have expanded.  So the content of the course reflects those changes.  In many ways, we are tweaking the curriculum every semester. After all, the core of our teaching faculty for advertising is working professionals and they apply their experiences to the classroom and curriculum on an ongoing basis, so we remain up-to-date.

Global Awards: In your opinion, how has healthcare advertising changed throughout the past few years?

Laurence Minsky: Health and wellness advertising has gotten a lot more interesting – just as all advertising.  Because it’s now and we are not stuck to one formula.  But now with the multiple, non-linier path-to-purchase, the solution must find the unique media formula as well as the content and design for each element in the campaign.

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