Point of View: Professor of Advertising, Matt Stefl

by Joe Brooks
Matt Stefl
Professor, Marketing / Strategy Consultant M-School @ Loyola Marymount University

Point of View: Professor of Advertising

What are the skills, interests, and personality traits necessary for a student to be successful in a marketing and advertising program? Why are these important for students to have?
In 2015, we surveyed talent recruiters & hiring managers in the Los Angeles creative marketing community about which skills and traits were most appealing to them amongst intern and entry-level talent. For starters, only 17% of hiring managers reported being somewhat or very enthusiastic about the talent pool. Top traits included: 1) passion for the business, 2) relevant experience, 3) personable, 4) effective communicator and 5) takes initiative to get things done. Bottom line: enthusiasm, hard-work and dedication still pay dividends.
What is the most rewarding part of a career in the marketing and advertising field? Why should students pursue a career in this field?
Variety, 100%. Talk to any agency person and they'll tell you their favorite part of the job is having no idea what is around the corner. The business is so dynamic and the agency structure typically requires people to work on multiple clients and/or wear multiple hats. This has been my personal experience, too. Bottom line: you'll never be bored.
What advice would you give to students who are considering earning a degree in marketing and advertising?
Don't rely solely on what your instructors are providing you. Become a student of the industry-- follow the trends, develop a POV on the work and learn about the people and agencies creating it. Subscribe to (and read) the blogs and newsletters like AAAA SmartBrief, Agency Spy, Campaign US, Creativity, JWT Intelligence, Media Post and more. Deconstruct everything and try to figure out why it works and how they made it.
What can students applying to advertising programs do to increase their chances of being accepted?
Kristina Jenkins (head of strategy at Zambezi, Los Angeles Small Agency of the Year) talks about finding your T -- the intersection of your passion for the business and the other stuff you're passionate about. For me it was motorcycle racing. For her it's Soul Cycle. Doesn't really matter what it is, so long as you're into it. Show the program that you're not only a student of the business but also an active participant in life.
How can prospective advertising students assess their skill and aptitude?
There are tools like Gallup StrengthsFinder and Myers Briggs personality test that are pretty insightful, many are available cheap or free online and definitely worth a look. Beyond that, try to set up some information interviews interviews in with people in the business and learn about the roles, see where your interest sparks. Often times your interests will lead you to your skills.
Are there different considerations for those who know that they want to specialize in a certain area?
Depends on the area I suppose. There are many roles that are best to learn while doing -- often areas like account management, media and project management. Other roles sometimes require special skills and even a portfolio to be considered -- areas like creative, UX, strategy, and developers (coders). For these, there are often specialized school and programs like portfolio schools, General Assembly, Miami Ad School and more.
What factors should prospective students consider when choosing an advertising program?
Obvious stuff like location, fit, cost and discipline specialty. The industry is changing quickly and trying to keep up with technology. Give special consideration to programs leading in tech and storytelling.
What further advice can you offer to prospective students thinking about an education and career in advertising and marketing?
Begin cultivating your personal brand sooner than later. Keep a blog and make a portfolio of your work. More and more, employers want examples of thinking, creativity, problem-solving and more.
How do you use AdForum within your program and how useful is it ?

Matt Stefl
Professor, Marketing / Strategy Consultant M-School @ Loyola Marymount University