Part of my work at Skidmore College as the F. William Harder Chair Professor of Business Administration includes the recruitment and production of an annual lecture.

Each year, a speaker is recruited and asked to present to the students a topic within their areas of interest and expertise. This year, it was me.

The link to the lecture: https://vimeo.com/557756796

If you’re working in the industry, it’s important to keep in mind that the audience for this presentation are students. The age range is 18-22. Their context as young adults is a world in which they have never known anything other than digital media and social media. To draw out the importance of this context, I will point out here that as part of the boomer generation I grew up with TV. I never knew a world without TV. My parents, part of the silent generation, grew up with radio; TV for them was a transformative technology. For my generation, digital has been a transformative technology. For these students, generation Z, digital is nothing new at all. However, their challenge is gaining some perspective, not simply on the past but also about where we are today and, if I did a decent job, suggestions to motivate their own work and understanding going forward.

This is academic work and is shared here in that context for that purpose. The work used to illustrate the presentation were derived from various sources, most of it my own, some of it sourced from various on-line resources available to the public. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this lecture was delivered virtually.

I hope you find it insightful.

The show is about 45 minutes in length, during which we touch on a range of topics from idea development to execution and agency culture too. While I was chief creative officer of Palio I hired Ken into the role of art buyer-producer. It was an important moment for both of us as it signaled a new level of growth for the agency and another chapter in Ken’s amazing career.  I hope you enjoy it. Click here for the show.

I stopped writing blog posts cold turkey. For a while I was really into writing them and then I wasn’t. It’s not that I wasn’t getting something from the process, I was, and at least a few of you were as well. Thank you for following. Apologize for the disappearance.

Working at Skidmore College, where I teach Branding and Commercial Production, has allowed me to develop my business into more of a consultancy. I joke at home that I’ve become the brand whisperer. It’s work I can do remotely and not interfere with my other obligations. I’ve also been further developing Vocal Pictures, the production arm of the company. Maybe it’s a leg, maybe even two legs …. for now, we can call it an arm.

Most of our film projects are for clients engaged with Brandforming, with occasional independent forays into short doc and narrative. One of the larger projects involved shooting over 14 days from early spring through late fall of 2019. Then the pandemic hit.

Working with students is a constant source of energy that keeps me on my toes and sharing my experience with the students has perhaps replaced my need to write posts. Of course, teaching during Covid-19 has been the cause of the Zoomdemic which makes it hard to spend any more time in front of a computer. On the whole, the students are doing their best to keep their heads in the game while staring into the abyss. After about 5 weeks, I decided to get off-line and back into the classroom. It’s not that the technology wasn’t working, or that my lesson plans were running afoul, I was simply bored teaching over Zoom.

We’re super cautious, we follow all the guidelines. I follow the Covid dashboards like a day trader follows the markets. So far, so good. As of this post, the virus is having its way with a good deal of the country. Refusal to comply with the scientific guidance is coming home to roost.

Stay safe.

My first year as The F. William Harder Chair Professor of Business Administration at Skidmore College has been a bit of a roller coaster.

The good kind, thrilling without the sense of impending doom that you get in those “poop your pants” rides that seem to push the limits of engineering. I went into this gig with some trepidation, not knowing how I’d fare. Not knowing is a good thing in my book. I like not knowing because it means I’m learning and I’ve learned a lot.

The first thing I’ve learned is that being a Professor is real work. From this day forward, if I ever hear anyone say, “those who know do… and those who don’t teach,” I’ll have them give it a try. They have obviously never stepped foot in a classroom full-time. The occasional rock star visit does not come close to staring down a room full of 20 something’s at 8:30 am on Wednesday & Friday mornings in February when it’s 20 below.

It takes real effort to keep students engaged. Effort, planning, follow-up and creativity. Sounds just like any other business.

The second thing I can tell you is the work outside the classroom far exceeds the work inside the classroom. But I’m still new to all this and it has already gotten easier but like any other gig, you get out of it what you put in, so if you’re doing it right, it’s never really easy.

In both courses, I bring in real clients, with real challenges. My approach is to workshop the challenge in a real-world format. It took some adjusting on my part to make this work for students vs. professionals.

It’s one thing to do something your entire career surrounded by pros and another thing entirely to codify it into a syllabus for people who have never done it before.

Another observation I can share is that Skidmore students are smart, with a causal confidence that belies their intelligence and strong work ethic. It’s a unique experience working with these students. Eager to learn and challenge themselves, to push their creativity and put it to work.

Working with creativity as a skill, with a business purpose, changes their ideas about creativity and helps them see it as vitally important, no matter their career choice.

In my courses, students have taken on assignments from organizations such as GE Innovations to Garnet River, an IT Professional Services Firm and Samadhi, Recovery Community Outreach Center.

In my Commercial Production course, we spend the majority of the semester discovering all that is involved in the making of a TV spot; perhaps more contemporarily defined as content. Most of these students had never before produced narrative content, so we invest ourselves in the art of the story, the heroes journey. We examine spots, listen to the words of Directors and Directors of Photography, Casting Agents, Location Scouts, Production Designers and Musicians. We practice concept development and story boarding our concepts. Then we focus our efforts on building production books to catalogue and manage the production. And finally, with approximately 4 weeks remaining in the semester, these Management and Business students get to work on their final assignment.

Their skill level varies but their creativity is strong. Click here if you would like to get a flavor of the experience.

Cheers.

For over a decade, I’ve been a regular guest speaker at Skidmore College in the classroom of Professor Christine Page.

I’ve offered my POV on creativity, advertising, branding and marketing and have done ideation workshops with the students. I really enjoy working with Christine and her students because it’s fun and rewarding to share my years of experience. It feels good to give back, and I’ve learned a few things in the process too.

Then Skidmore scared the crap out of me.

How? They offered me the F. William Harder Chair of Business Administration. This is an endowed professorship, a great job, at a great school and an incredible honor. It made my knees shake. It’s one thing to drop in a few times a year and quite another to walk into a room full of bright young minds twice a week with the goal of imparting a kernel of knowledge.

Teaching is not easy work, and I love the work I’m doing with Brandforming; so why add this to the mix?

As Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

I love learning. It’s one of the things I love most about advertising; the need to keep learning to solve client marketing problems. To work alongside these students, to challenge them to dig for insight and generate ideas together will be a great experience.

Teaching is learning; and I’ll be learning right alongside these millennials, post millennials and Gen Z-Centennials. They have as much to offer me as I do them. I’m routinely impressed, not only by their intelligence but also by their willingness to write their own rules. This is not ambivalence on their part, it’s creation. Bingo.

This why I’m now the F. William Harder Chair of Business Administration at Skidmore College…or if you prefer, Professor.