We Don’t Need No Advertising Education

A few months ago, I incurred the wrath of some advertising professors who took exception to my Talent Zoo column about advertising education. One university department head sent me a snarky note at 11:00 at night and called me “vapid,” while another professor dug up my resume in an attempt to play “gotcha” with my own educational background. Not exactly Socratic debating techniques.
While I said that advertising programs need improvement, particularly in training future creatives, Livingston Miller, writing in Ad Age, goes much farther:

So why are so many college majors, let alone whole colleges, cropping up around the idea that advertising should be taught as an undergraduate course of study? I can understand why you’d seek training for some of our key tools — Photoshop for design, Illustrator for creative, Squad and Dart for media people. But that’s on a par with postgraduate study, which can home in on specifics.
But spend precious undergraduate years studying advertising? Not only are kids wasting their time, they’re underdeveloping their minds — and dimming the lights on the future of our business. There’s just too much precious learning to be had in science, history, art, literature, language and math. These majors are not only more interesting and personally rewarding in their own right, they are also more supportive of a career in advertising over the long run.

I wonder if any professors out there are willing to take Miller on. There are some colleges beefing up their ad programs, and I suspect they won’t like his perspective one bit.

UPDATE: And I was right about that last point. When I posted this on AdPulp there were only 2 comments on Miller’s article. Now there are 16 the morning after. Lots of Syracuse and VCU folks taking Miller to task. Although I do think their arguments would be just as effective if the arguments weren’t so personal and vitriolic. Because if that’s what they’re teaching in school, it’s a problem. You can’t talk to your clients or co-workers that way, even if they’re wrong and stupid–not if you want to stay employed, that is.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. College is for learning how to think. Hopefully, you learn how to do something with that thinking later.

  2. Unless you want to repeat the mistakes of advertising’s past (which happens every day), you need to learn as much as you can. A degree focused in advertising, portfolio school, real agency experience and all the ad/branding books you can get your hands is the least you can do.
    You can’t expect to lead advertising in a new direction if you have no idea where its been.

  3. “College is for learning how to think.”
    I got told that chestnut all through Uni when I asked how what I was doing would apply to a job afterwards.
    I think Uni should be a bit beyond that way of thinking and train students to have the skills to actually provide a benefit to the workplace when they get out into the real world.