DigiCOM couple teach ad agency course

By: Laura Brent ’18, Staff Writer

This semester’s one-credit ad agency course is giving students the opportunity to work with real clients, while being instructed by two alumni who own their own ad agency.

DCOM 301: Ad Agency is usually taught by digital communications professor Mat Samuel, but this semester Samuel is on sabbatical. In substitution of Samuel, Jill Whiskeyman ’07 and Steve Whiskeyman ’09, both digital communications and English alumni, were happy to step in and teach the course.

“We’re running it like a real ad agency,” Jill said. “We’re going to show the students what it’s like to work in a really collaborative setting.”

“I think Mat Samuel is going to have to pry it out of our hands when he gets back,” Steve said. “I know it is only a one credit class, but to us, it is just fun and natural.”

The Whiskeymans are no strangers when it comes to collaborating together. The two have been working together on projects since college and founded their own ad agency, Simpatico Studios, in 2011.

At Simpatico Studios, they focus on who their client is, what their place in the market is, and what their story is. Then, the team tells the client’s story in whatever medium is needed.

“If you’re working for an ad agency you are in the people business,” Steve said. “People work with people that they get to know and trust.”

Jill and Steve are excited to be teaching concepts that they have learned from their post-grad experiences to current students.

“One thing that is unique about DigiCom in general is Dr. Ritchie and Dr. Kline have fostered this idea of paying it forward,” said Jill.  “You’re only as good as the people that pass on what they’ve learned – that’s what gives the advantage.”

Students in the ad agency class range from freshman to seniors and all bring different skills to the table.

The students are currently working with a non-profit school, Achieve Their Goals (ATG), who specialize in 1:1 education for children with learning differences.

“It’s a really interesting client,” Steve said. “They are non-profit and their whole position is that special education in the public school system doesn’t work.  ATG believes that every child can learn and everyone learns differently. ATG has great stories to tell, they just have no marketing budget.”

Students have been creating an integrated marketing plan on how to build and capital a campaign so that they can raise money to move facilities for the school over the summer.

“There isn’t another class where you can learn how an agency functions, interact with a real client, and implement a real campaign for their needs. It’s a very cool process to be a part of,” Caity Stevens, a senior digital communications major said.

The second half of the term, students are asked to come up with their own client to work with, while still managing the ATG campaign.

“They’re going to have two clients to work on simultaneously,” Steve said. “So now, we are getting them into a rhythm of an actual ad agency because you never work with just one client.”

Both Jill and Steve hope to pass on valuable skills to all of the students in the course and teach the class in the future.

“I hope they come out of the class world-weary,” Steve said. “If the students are just a little more prepared than I was [as an undergrad] after taking this class then I’ll consider that win.”

Ad Agency is offered every spring and is open to all majors.