Miami Ad School: “Don’t be an advertiser. Be a Pop Culture Engineer.”
Interview with Miami Ad School President Pippa Seichrist
For more than a decade, the Miami Ad School (Portfolio School) has been one of the most influential institutions for the ad industry. No other portfolio school has brought forth more award winners. One could even argue, that Miami’s ad industry would never have supported a Crispin Porter + Bogusky without the steady flow of MAS graduates.
So when I sat down with the schools president Pippa Seichrist, I wondered what she thought about the changes that reshape the very advertising industry that they helped create.
“It’s exciting” she said, “all the rules are being rewritten.” And while there is a certain sentimentality when she says that typography and writing no longer have the importance they once had, she just loves the creative opportunities that come with this: “It is now much more inventive.”
Inventing more than ads is exactly where the traditional concept of a Portfolio School stops working. Consequently, the Miami Ad School now brands itself as “The School of Pop Culture Engineering”.
But isn’t engineering a bit too strong a claim? Does our industry really need to pretend that advertising is a science of mechanical certainty? Do we really want to tell detergent makers how to engineer a better detergent?
Seichrist says their students don’t pretend to know how to make a better detergent formula. But “we can engineer the relationship” between consumer and product. One that proves to the customer that his life and experience matters. The new creatives have to come up with ideas that deliver “more than just words and pictures. It can be the way somebody does something.” Like the way Nike+ has connected runners all over the world, or Foursquare has taught us to check into places.
The next generation of advertising creatives will still have to know how to focus a brand message. But they also need to continually tune into the reality of customers, and understand where a brands can engage with them and fit into the way they eat, shop and love. “If you want to be a good brand today, you need to be adding value to someone’s life.”
Seichrist mentions one of their in-school projects with OfficeMax. One team presented a well researched classical 360° campaign. The other team won: with a a series of ideas that created surprising product experiences.
To better way to understand the impact of new product experiences we only needed to take a few steps down, to the demo of the Cannes Lions winning Coke machine of SapientNitro that’s sitting in the hall of the Miami Ad School. Describing her playful interaction with the machine, Seichrist perfectly sums up the feeling advertisers now need to create:
“I just want to live with it.”