Recently, I was introduced to a dynamic individual within our creative community who has been very vocal in introducing youngsters to creative careers: Ed Roberts. Ed's career has been taken him from agency life to in-house creative leader (currently as the Creative Lead at ElectricCities of NC, Inc.). In addition, he is an Editorial Council Member & Contributor with the InHOWse Designer Blog and WWDUC2 Chair for the 2013 AAF-RDU Summer Internship Program.
Having participated in industry awareness and career preparation events myself, I was particularly interested in the program "What We Do U Can 2" (WWDUC2). Ed, with the Diversity Committee with AAF-RDU (American Advertising Federation--Raleigh, Durham, Carey, Chapel Hill), launched this program in Fall 2012. Ed made time in his hectic schedule to speak with me about this program, which is aimed at promoting creative career opportunities for high school students with diverse backgrounds in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina.
Matt Lang: What was the spark for launching WWDUC2?
Ed Roberts: I've been very involved with local chapters of AIGA and AAF and understand the value of the exposure these groups offer, especially as it relates to expanding the reach of an in-house creative team's exposure. An opening came up on the AAF-RD's board for the Diversity Chair, and I was asked to lead the committee. The focus of this committee is to get a more diverse background of people within the creative community. What we saw, as creatives, was that they weren't many people in agency environments with a diverse background, even though large portions of marketing campaigns were targeting diverse communities. With that in mind, we felt a great way to introduce creative careers was through an internship program.
Matt: What is the mission and objective of program?
Ed: The mission is to encourage and affect the lives of talented, diverse high school and freshman college students who are creative and show an interest in advertising. We want to present WWDUC2 as a viable, gratifying option by providing real-life experiences to fuel their interests and inspire them to pursue a career in advertising.
Matt: Launching a new program such as this can be difficult as the education and introduction of the program is very time consuming. What are your initial goals for the program and how are you introducing the program to the community?
Ed: The goal for our first year is to engage 10 students to participate in the 2013 AAF-RDU Summer Internship program, placing one student in each participating host business. The program has been very well received. The most successful outlet for youth participation to this point has been with local youth councils in and around the area. In fact, the youth council relationship took off and the program is now listed on the state's website. We are also participating in high school career fairs and very involved with social media. We produced a promotional video with the committee members and local creatives
Matt: What companies are participating in the internship?
Ed: This was a concern at first, but we called out to the leading advertising agencies in the Raleigh-Durham area and held a "Breakfast of Champions" meeting. The response was more than we could've imagined. From that meeting, 10 companies signed up to be a host company for the internship.
Matt: What is the process for students to apply, and how has the response been thus far?
Ed: [Studients are required to submit a] typed essay of 300 words max on the topic, "How my talents could help an ad agency this summer." A letter of recommendation from a teacher or guidance counselor and an official transcript and parental consent [is also required]. The response has been incredible. We held an event in January at a Youth Council meeting and received 15 applications from one presentation. We hope to reach 100 applications in our first year.
Matt: That's quite a lofty goal, but what next? What is your vision for this program?
Ed: We are already talking to other chapters of AAF and would like to expand statewide and nationally...there is definitely a master plan in place!
During our conversation, Ed mentioned how technology has impacted today's youth and how integrated it is within our lives, I was interested in digging a bit deeper into this topic as it has a direct impact on career opportunities and the ability to produce creative.
Matt: You mentioned the accessibility of technology to today's youth, how do you think this will affect the creative/advertising community in 10-20 years?
Ed: I think this will create a knowledgeable client base. It will strengthen the relationship between the agency and client and hopefully produce better work.
I want to personally thank Ed Roberts for his time and applaud him for his work with AAF-RDU in launching WWDUC2. As someone who has helped organizations find talent, it's no secret that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract creative youth to the industry. With that said, Ed and his peers' work, and hopefully the expansion of the program, is a great way to introduce a rewarding career path for today's youth.
Since originally writing this article, Ed, along with the diversity committee with AAF-RDU won a silver Addy award for the summer internship's marketing collateral campaign, which included the logo, posters, t-shirt, flash presentation and video. The video alone won a bronze Addy! The judges represented Creative Directors from the Los Angeles, Chicago and Colorado Springs advertising markets, along with the local advertising community, which shows the viability to grow this program on a national level!