SMU Ad Team takes on new year, new coach

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By Kara Fellows

Walking into Professor Amber Benson’s office is like seeing a SMU Pinterest board come to life. Everything is red and blue, from the giant calendar on one wall to the small red ottomans to sit on instead of chairs.

The walls are hung with cute typography prints that read “Pony Up!” and other inspirational quotes. It’s exactly what you would expect from the woman who is taking over the award-winning SMU AAF NSAC Team, also known as Ad Team.

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SMU Ad Team pictured at a past competition. Photo credit: Nicki Fletcher

This will be the first year Benson coaches the team, taking over from longtime coach and professor Peter Noble. Professor Benson has worked closely with the team since coming to SMU in 2015. Past members are optimistic about where the team is going despite losing Noble.

The SMU Ad Team has brought home two national wins and many more district awards over 17 years, including 2nd place overall and Best Strategy last spring.

The team is run through the Temerlin Advertising Institute and usually consists of about 20 student members from around the university who apply for the team during fall. Members will spend more than 400 hours working on an ad campaign during the spring semester, sacrificing spring break, sleep and any semblance of free time.

With the team’s past success, Benson is excited to switch up the structure from Noble’s where the whole team worked together on every aspect of the project. Instead Professor Benson plans to run Ad Team like a real advertising agency.

“You’ll apply for a specific position and commit to certain tasks. You get an offer letter and everything,” she said.

Despite the long hours, the results are always worth it according to SMU junior and creative advertising major Liz Martinelli, who worked on Ad Team last spring. She saw how much Benson’s insight and experience helped the team in the final stages of the campaign.

“She’s such an accomplished professional,” Martinelli said. “I have full confidence in whoever the new Ad Team will be to come up with something great for this year’s client.”

Running the team won’t be much of a jump for Benson who founded her own marketing consulting firm, Seamripper, nearly seven years ago in Dallas. She also has almost 20 years of experience consulting agencies in strategy development and her resume will help the Ad Team rise to the top.

“All the skills I’ve learned go into creating an idea and pitching it to clients,” Benson said.

Which is basically what happens at the AAF competition. After spending the semester preparing, the team pitches its campaign to an actual client. According to Caroline Moss, a member of last year’s team, Ad Team is as close to real-world experience as you can get.

“In a lot of ways you get more experience than you would at an internship,” Moss, an advertising major, said. “Because instead of being an intern you are automatically a junior copywriter, strategist or a media planner.”

More than the medals and awards, Benson said she is looking forward to seeing students become passionate about the industry she loves.

“I can’t wait to see that moment when they catch the bug that everyone in this industry has,” she said.

There is an Ad Team informational meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28 in the Ad Lounge in Umphrey Lee. The 2017 applications are due Oct. 7 and are open to all majors.

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