Reorganized and fired up, AdShop takes a professional aim at student advertising

    A mock ad that AdShop member Jacob Watson designed for the CTA. Photo courtesy of Marcy Capron.

    Correction appended

    A glance in the Lake Room on a Wednesday night would scream “boring exec meeting.” Five people sitting around a table, one guy writing on the board.

    “Mock Shop Week Two.” “Human Connection.” “Ride Me.”

    But then somebody offers up, “I’m thinking some kind of bad, porn poster aesthetic … in bars and stuff like that.”


    This is MockShop, a meeting of the student-run advertising group AdShop, where members bounce around concepts for mock ads, practice their skills, and build their portfolios.

    It’s a brainstorming session, led by Head Copywriter Kevin Burke. Creative Director Marcy Capron, a Communications senior, contributes through video chatting on someone’s Mac. There’s a lot of “Can you hear us?” and “Hello?”

    There’s also a lot of “what if we…” as in “what if we had ads on the buses moving through traffic?” Or “What if we just had the word ‘owned’ in huge letters?”

    Week two, and MockShop is brainstorming for a new (albeit imaginary) client: The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).

    “Where else can you find the rainbow?”
    CTA lines. Red. Yellow. Purple. Brown. Blue. Green. Pink. Orange. Diversity.

    AdShop is the student-run advertising agency whose clientele are usually student organizations and Evanston businesses. They design ads, flyers, logos, banners and, once, even menus (check out the Wild Dogz menus since last year).

    While seeking out more clients, AdShop also took on a pro-bono client: Campus Kitchens, Northwestern’s student organization which brings food from dining halls to the needy in Evanston. Recently, AdShop created posters to help Campus Kitchens recruit from Evanston communities.

    Whereas last quarter AdShop focused on restructuring and organizing the group, this quarter they plan to self-advertise and promote their skills to build up their client list.

    It’s a small group of 23 students, an eclectic mix of mostly theater, journalism, economics and RTVF majors. Their inspirations range from David Sedaris to “trashy reality TV,” “crappy anime” to classic Disney, and Spike Jonze to Michael Bay.

    “It definitely provides different perspectives,” said Burke, a Communication junior. “We’ve got film majors who look at things from an animation or film context, we’ve got photographers who can look at it from a photographer’s eye, we’ve got web designers, we’ve got English majors, we’ve got people who…know what makes up the whole fabric of pop culture.”

    The inspiration behind AdShop’s projects comes from the diversity of the group — it is their lifeline. It is what they use to generate concepts and ultimately create advertisements for their clients.

    “If everyone can bring a different perspective to the table then it raises and elevates the entire perspective of the group to a level you couldn’t accomplish on your own,” Burke added.

    “Cash Cars”
    Train cars = cash cars. Save money. Make money. What they do.

    “We fill the gap that is there because there is no advertising major,” said co-President Eduardo Mancera, a Weinberg junior. “A lot of kids are interested in advertising but don’t have an outlet.”

    Although Northwestern does offer an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Certificate, Mancera claims that advertising and marketing fall on different pages.

    “The advertising side is more of the creative process,” Mancera said. “Marketing has a lot to do with analyzing different population sections and what they want. Advertising is more concept-based -– coming up with campaigns. It’s more of the actual work you see.”

    The ad industry fosters a creative and laidback atmosphere. So when AdShop held their first meeting in whatever room they could find — the Norris game room — it worked out. The pool tables, the Monday night football game — “It was fitting,” said Burke. Good ambience.

    “My father works in advertising in Minneapolis, and so my whole life I thought that what my father does is what everyone’s father does,” Burke said. “I would go to work and I’d go to photo shoots or commercial shoots…I also thought that the office was a fun place, a hip place with computer games and ping pong tables and beer on tap, things that an advertising agency has.”

    “Heart and capillaries/valves are lines”
    How it all works. Come together.

    Each student is either part of the business, copywriting or creative team. As implied, business people work out the deals, copywriters write the text, and creatives design the ad. But everyone contributes to critiquing, brainstorming and creating. Everybody talks.

    An ad designed for the 2009 Dance Marathon by AdShop member Tara Dubbs. Photo courtesy of Marcy Capron.

    “It’s a fun collection of people,” Mancera said. “It’s very interactive with other people….advertising is very project-based so you have a lot of different people working together, bouncing ideas off each other.”

    With that comes experimentation, including dabbling in other crafts. Copywriters may want to try designing, business people may want to try copywriting and designers may want to understand the business aspect of advertising.

    “The industry is leaning that way,” Burke said. “Copywriters know a lot about Photoshop and art directing, and art directors can come up with copywriting ideas. So it’s really blending.”

    To allow this flexibility, the six-member executive board created “MockShop,” which would allow members to dabble in other areas, create mock ads for their portfolios and prepare for the work industry.

    “Marcy and I had this idea that we didn’t want to graduate and go to portfolio school,” Burke said. “We wanted to create a venue for students to get together…creating ads just as a portfolio school setting would. So they could build a portfolio to ultimately enter the industry prepared.”

    Furthermore, AdShop hopes to expand its services, looking into video and Web site design, Mancera explained.

    “One of the criticisms in the job of advertising is that you don’t get to pick your clients,” Mancera said. “You could be producing work for a company that may not be doing the best thing in the world. But having a group like Campus Kitchens, which is non-profit and contributing to something good, is somewhat inspiring to the creative process. People would be more motivated to put their best effort into it.”

    All these changes stem from a reorganized AdShop and a completely new executive board.

    “I got involved at the beginning of my sophomore year and the club was very different. It was pretty big, it was an open club,” said Leah Ring, 22, who was last year’s co-president. “Some meetings, we would have as many as 50, others 15. The structure of the group just wasn’t working that well. There wasn’t a real sense of accountability for the people.”

    AdShop’s executive board last year decided to make the group smaller and more accountable and became more selective in their applicants. Their main goal was to make AdShop more of a pre-professional organization.

    “In the last two years we’ve changed dramatically from the large, unorganized group that we used to be,” Burke said. “We’ve all entered this new stage. It’s kind of like starting over again.”

    “Ads in Traffic”
    Spread the word. Moving slow? Clients move faster.

    With the new system and changes, AdShop is still focusing on expanding student awareness. The second meeting, this time held in the Lake Room of Norris University Center and looking less like a boring exec conference, put members to create campaign concepts for AdShop itself.

    Three groups, each with creatives, copywriters and business people, brainstormed separately. They brought in ideas like hanging light bulbs from trees, AdShop stunts and viral videos.

    Unfortunately, someone beat them to their favorite idea: the creation of a portable papier-mâché rock. It’s big, it gets noticed, and it says “We are your second Rock.”

    Correction, Jan. 15 at 4:00: The original version of this article implied that AdShop had created a papier-mâché rock. Though they considered the idea, another, independent student executed it.


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