August 2021

Insights from Steve Pacheco

President & CEO, American Advertising Federation

Learning Never Stops…

As you well know, the AAF has always been deeply invested and involved in Advertising Education.

In fact, it’s one of our four strategic focus areas (along with Policy & Advocacy, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Events & Experiences) that make up the core of what we do.

And it’s never been more critically important than now. At this writing, most College students across the nation have been through three consecutive semesters of “virtual” classes and little or no in person or on campus classes or events during the pandemic lock down.

That puts a strain on not only the students, but also the professors, the faculty advisors, the administrators and everyone involved in education. 

In my recent conversations with agency and client-side executives, I have heard more and more about the need for educated, talented young people to enter the Advertising, Media and Marketing industries. The industry is seriously concerned about attracting and retaining talent at all levels. And it all starts with Education.

The AAF serves these industries every day in so many ways to develop the Next Generation of leaders and fill the talent pipeline for years to come.  We have earned the respect and support of the industry for the work we do to lay a solid foundation for our young people to build a career from. 

It’s all part of our strategically structured measured approach to Advertising Education. In conjunction with our National Education Executive Committee (NEEC) which recently wrapped up some great work on an overarching strategic plan that encourages everyone to be #SmarterTogether, the AAF Staff works tirelessly on continuously improving our proven Education programs and constantly optimizing what we do in this area that serves over 4,000 students across North America.  

The AAF Education Services Team, led by AAF Executive Vice President Ayanna Jackson, and including Laura Roha, LeAirra Lacey and Emily Gaddy, recently held a planning retreat to get set for the Fall semester and lay out a road map for success and greater support. I’m excited about their ambitious plans and here to support their work towards meeting / exceeding their goals and objectives.

Let me walk you through our progressive path of progress for young people—all part of our proven Advertising Education programs and platforms…

Our AAF AdCamps get High Schoolers busy in the Summer focusing on their education and learning more about Advertising, Media and Marketing careers. And with some additional support coming in from Jack Myers Advancing Diversity, we hope to grow this to more sites for 2022. We’re considering some major markets for these new AdCamps.  Stay tuned for more info. We can also customize our proven AdCamp curriculum for your market or your organization. Ask us for more info about this.

The AAF National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) is the premier Advertising competition that happens every Spring on 100+ College campuses involving thousands of students—with recent NSAC Partners like Adobe, Tinder and for 2022 Oculus—this “real life” competition identifies the top students across North America. It’s our very own “March Madness.” This program has always been very special to me as I competed (way back when) and that experience has stayed with me and served me well throughout my career. I still maintain friendships I developed during that semester. (And a dependence on Maxwell House coffee!)

In the Fall, our virtual Student Advertising Career Conference introduces students to the leading edge of the advertising industry in a three-day immersive experience including keynote and breakout sessions designed to show students what it’s like to really work in advertising, marketing, and media in 2021. The always-packed Recruiter’s Expo is a great place to meet talent ready to start on Day One.

It doesn’t stop there; we have an incredible “Campus to Corporate” platform that helps connect top young talent across the country by reserving an existing internship position at one of our Corporate Members specifically for an AAF College Chapter member. The AAF pre-screens all candidates so participating companies are reviewing the best of the best for their positions! 

This is a no-cost program for AAF Corporate members (check if your company is one here). This is your chance to create a priceless connection to the future leaders of advertising while helping prepare recent and soon to be College graduates for their first job in Advertising, Media and Marketing.   

HBCUs For Advertising just launched in 2020 with great support from our AAF Corporate Partners. We have 12 confirmed schools now, with plans to grow that to 16-20+ in the future. These schools are either already on board, or considering a relationship with the AAF:

  • Alabama A&M University
  • Alcorn State University 
  • Bowie State University
  • Delaware State University
  • Harris-Stowe University
  • Howard University
  • Morehouse College
  • Morgan State University
  • North Carolina A&T
  • Prairie View A&M University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tuskegee University
  • Virginia State University

AAF Staff is busy walking these students and faculty advisors through the package of benefits of being an AAF College Chapter Member, taking them through the AAF Collegiate calendar of events, and connecting students with Sponsors and NEEC Members who can tell them more about what they’ve put together specifically for the HBCUs including mentorships, internships, and more developmental opportunities.

Our Most Promising Multicultural Students program launched in 1997 and has been the industry standard for bringing the Best of the Best into the incredibly competitive marketplace for young diverse talent. Our current AAF Board Chair Tiffany R. Warren, was part of that first “Most Promising” class when she was a Senior at Bentley University in Boston—where she is now a Trustee for the University. What an incredible journey she has had—all with the AAF behind her and championing her, and her career. 

We are building out our “Most Promising” data base of all Alumni and developing a Communications strategy that will include opportunities for more frequent dialogue between the AAF and this great group of grads. Also planned is a new badging program, that allows “Most Promising” Alum to get and showcase a new Most Promising badge to add to their LinkedIn profile and social media.  

And don’t forget that at the AAF Club Network level—we have several programs built around timely and topical Professional Education opportunities—(or as I like to call it “Lifelong Learning.”) Accreditation programs from our Corporate Partners like The Trade Desk, Facebook and Google. Various certificate programs on Advertising Ethics and an all-new relationship with eCornell for their highly coveted, award winning, online certificate programs from Cornell University. These programs all appeal to both new and experienced AAF Members who value the importance of constantly learning something new and taking advantage of continued education that makes them more marketable.

The AAF Education team is ambitious, hardworking, and endlessly optimistic about the value of Education in all aspects of AAF Membership. But—you don’t have to take my word for it. Just reach out and spend some time talking with them about our strong existing programs and our exciting plans for the immediate and long-term future. I promise you will leave energized and having learned something yourself. Our staff play an important role in building #SmarterTogether and they can’t wait to learn from you, too.

Beyond these signature programs, the AAF Team is dedicated to building a stronger foundation of education for all our partners—students, faculty, administrations, young professionals, professionals, and corporate partners. We can and must all learn from each other to continue moving our industry forward. Education is a critical starting point for a thriving career, and continued education through community and professional experience is crucial for lifelong success. The AAF connects all members to Education programs, opportunities, and leaders. 

After all, we are the “Unifying Voice for Advertising.” And we’re our best at unifying when we are all together.

And we’re all very excited to get back to school soon…and we can’t wait to collaborate with our Students, our Faculty Members, our Professional Members and our Corporate Members on these and more AAF Education & Lifelong Learning programs and platforms. 

Ring the bell, school is back in session. For the AAF—it never really stopped…because learning never stops.


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 Posted: August 2021