Why the Big Picture Matters

Popular major studies among individuals whose planned careers include advertising (or, more broadly) marketing are communications, business or marketing. Naturally, if marketing research has its own methodology, why was precious time and tuition money spent studying anything else? After all, isn’t preparation and qualification for the working world the primary reason for matriculation at any university?

These pre-professional disciplines, I feel, are deceptive, but without malicious intent. I think that learning about marketing statistics and research methodology are great, as is learning the functions of capitalist enterprise and communication strategy. But I feel that there is something broader and more universal that drives those phenomena that is well worth understanding.

Read this as you will: an argument for bring the ivory tower to the workplace or an argument for the intellectualization of the everyday professional. Probably the worse interpretation of my entry here would be that this is a veneration of myself and vindictive condemnation of my competition. I am not really advocating any of those things but, rather, showing that thinking outside the box when hiring can prove beneficial.

Let’s begin with functions of the capitalist enterprise, something that any business major is required to understand prior to graduation day. Although businesses following business models are going to make up the body of clientele any agency has to work with, business models change and evolve and sometimes disintegrate. Economics – the discipline which explains how a lot of business actually works – is less wavering in its veracity and versatile application.

The business cycle moves in a cyclical fashion … duh. But who can explain why the business cycle may experience an irregularity? Only individuals who are well-versed in the principles of economics and its driving forces, supply and demand, will be able to investigate, analyze, and creatively problem-solve when it comes to a change in the “business truths” that are no longer valid.

And what about understanding communication strategies: the goal behind the communications program at every university? Granted, there are specific techniques that are useful in marketing, but once again, how long will these last? Tag Ideation, a company in the McCann-Erickson agency network has started experimenting with new methods of communication that go outside the traditional media (radio, TV, billboard) and have started putting post-it notes in taxi cabs and using other more shocking and unorthodox methods. Will a communications (or even more dangerous, advertising) major understand which divergences from the path most taken are going to be effective and which are not? Unlikely, since the topics of study in a communications program are the existing methods. A student of psychology, on the other hand, can most likely understand social phenomena such as upward social comparison, the health belief model and other motivating factors that encourage behavior change. And isn’t behavior change the final goal of ALL marketing endeavors?

In the end, it’s pretty hard for agency principals to select the best candidates for a job based on academic background alone. I still believe that experience is a better teacher than any class, be it social psychology, macroeconomics, or managerial accounting. I think that we have to pay attention to the direction of the industry, and stay aware that things are always changing. Successful agencies in the future will be those that have learned a great deal about the industry, but which can also bend and re-define the rules to match shifting markets and modes of message communication.

Aaron Finegold

Johnson Direct LLC Account Services Intern


The comments expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Johnson Direct, LLC.