Jason Gan (Questrom ‘16, COM ‘16) on Breathing the Creative Side of Advertising 

The advertising industry’s evergreen need for creativity makes it significant for AD professionals to pursue new ideas on a daily base.The COMmunicator caught up with Jason Gan (Questrom ‘16, COM ‘16), junior art director at Arnold Worldwide, on his experience of being a creative director in an advertising agency and how COM helped him launch his career in advertising.

Life out of COM: Keeping creative is a rewarding experience

Arnold Worldwide is Jason’s first stop after graduating from COM, and he loves it. “My current job is at the largest agency that I have ever had, “ Jason said, “And I do appreciate the opportunity to work in a large agency now, where I can work for bigger brands and have a bigger budget for the creative side, although there are bureaucracies and politics.”

There is no typical day for Jason at Arnold. Sometimes, there will be meetings all day, where the creative department brainstorms ideas, refines several options that the team likes, and send the final options to the client for selection. “Sometimes, it is just a day of sitting down and designing different kinds of ads for eight or more hours straight.”

“Creativity always has been the heart of advertising,” Jason said. “I think good advertising is something that makes people talk about it. Say, when you see a video by a brand, you send it to your friends because you thought it was really cool. For me, that’s a successful ad — [the sharing] is something without me asking you to do.”

Moving further to the interactive culture of today’s advertising, Jason finds the industry entering into an interesting time. “In the past, there was medium-specific advertising, like for TV, for video, or for billboards.“ Jason said. “The best work now is social engagement, where people just go out and do something without a specific platform (to target on). Heineken did a semi-controversial ad where they had people with opposing opinions sit and have a drink together, and it received a lot of press.”

Life at COM: Portfolio is the resume for creative students 

In the competitive advertising world, it takes hard work, consistent effort, and solid skill sets to launch a good job. Jason recalled that classes at COM, AdLab, and Creative Café helped him build up his portfolio and become a dab hand at the creative side of advertising.

Talking about his life as a COM minor, Jason highly appreciated the portfolio classes he took with Professor Edward Boches. During these classes, he was mentally engaged and stimulated to be at his creative best constantly. “The portfolio classes are where I developed my passion for advertising and where I learned about how to push myself forward.”

As a rising creative guru during his time at BU, Jason also benefited a lot from the Creative Café, the one-on-one career consulting where advertising students take their portfolios to assigned advertising recruiters or creative directors around the Boston area for advice and suggestions. “I don’t think anyone feels that they are ready to go to it,“ Jason said (Laughs). “But I think it’s really helpful if you go there, show your portfolio, and get feedback. I had several job interviews out of it, so it is also a great networking event.”

Suggestion for COM students: Self-teach new skills as many as possible  

The changing industry requires creative people to continuously evolve their skills, and some of the skills are not taught in COM’s classrooms. “It will be valuable for creative students to learn how to shoot videos, editing, animating, etc. The tutorials are all on YouTube, and learning about these can definitely help you advance your career.”

These small, special skills can be significantly beneficial at work and can add value to the client. “For example, maybe you have a small social campaign with an idea to do animation. Maybe the client will do it, but maybe they do not want to pay 50,000 dollars to have a studio do it. [If you have the skill] you can actually animate it yourself. Having such skills help the creative people get more work done.”


Jessie Zhang, Staff Writer

Jessie is a second-year grad student in PR and an aspiring PR and marketing professional. PR agency life is her energizer, and writing is her bittersweet lover. Jessie is a full-time cat lover, a part-time concert goer, and a lifelong wonderer. www.jessiejxzhang.com.

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