Ad(Lab) Me in: BU’s Student-Run Advertising Agency, Five Attributes of A Professional Agency

AdLab is BU’s student-run advertising agency. With over 100 students and four major departments, AdLab mirrors the structure of a professional agency, with teams working with real clients from diverse fields and meeting weekly to discuss objectives, hear guest speakers and work together. The program offers invaluable lessons and experiences, and according to AdLab students and advisors, there are five main reasons to get involved.

1. Same Structure, Smaller Scale

AdLab has all the major roles you’ll find in a typical advertising agency: account executives, account planners, art directors and copywriters. Each team has one student per position to replicate real agency teams.

“AdLab is unique in that it’s an actual experience outside of the classroom,” faculty advisor Tobe Berkovitz said.  He also notes that AdLab mirrors a professional advertising agency, but in a less intimidating setting. “The stakes are much higher working in an ad agency because you can be fired, your client can be angry, or your client can be happy and you can be flown to Cannes to celebrate your agency’s success,” Berkovitz said. “But the reality of strategy, working with clients, and coming up with creative content is all very realistic.” The program’s smaller scale allows room for experimentation, creativity, and learning.

BU senior and advertising major Clare Stonich enrolled in AdLab during the fall of her sophomore year. Last spring, while studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, Stonich worked at BBC Worldwide for car companies Volkswagen and Skoda, and her AdLab experience gave her the skills she needed to succeed.

“I heard that AdLab in many ways resembles what it is actually like to work creatively at an agency,” Stonich said. “That was 100 percent true.”

2. The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

BU junior and advertising major Nicole Toppino just finished her first semester in AdLab. “No class quite compares to the hands-on experience of working with real clients while still in an academic setting,” Toppino said. The program attracts a diverse array of clients–each with specific tastes, objectives, and biases. “The clients ranged from apps to aromatherapy to publications, all with different target audiences and business problems.”

There is only so much even the brightest advertising students can learn from a textbook – after all, how to manage a client can’t be compiled into chapter summaries and key terms. “Students work with real clients. They learn the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the world of advertising,” Berkovitz said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a local, nonprofit or global corporation–clients are clients.”

Before entering the workforce, students learn how to manage a multitude of personalities and preferences. “Some clients are great, some, less great, and you might as well learn that now.”

Associate Professor and AdLab advisor Tobe Berkovitz

3. Constant Communication is Crucial

If there is any skill more important for advertisers than communicating with clients, it is the ability to communicate within the team. Valuable discussion and collaboration is at the heart of any team’s success. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

Stonich believes practicing effective communication was the most crucial skill she developed in the program. She recognized the different schedules of all her team members and the importance of communication and time management in achieving success.

“It is about sending those emails, responding efficiently, and verbalizing any issues you may have,” Stonich said. “Having communicated with my team in AdLab, and having to know what the account people had to accomplish in a certain time frame, definitely helped me understand what I was doing during my internship as well.”

Weekly team meetings also helps students assure they are all on the same page. “It was a very collaborative process,” Toppino said. “We had to all be effective communicators and coordinators.”

4. A Student-Run Show

According to Stonich, AdLab students are motivated and organized. “As much as the faculty members offer guidance and are there 100 percent, it’s really up to students,” Stonich said. “You are corresponding with students the majority of the time.”

With constantly evolving technology and social media platforms, advertising continues to become more digital – and since students regularly use digital platforms and social media, they have the expertise clients want. “Some of the clients that come to us are more traditional and don’t have the same perspective we do about the digital age and social media,” Toppino said. “Even if they are not willing to to utilize new media, we push for it.”

Students’ skills and ingenuity also foster fresh and exciting ideas. “The students are bringing their own perceptions, insights, and understanding of the world they live in,” said Berkovitz.

5. The Long-term Benefits

In addition to providing students with hands-on, practical  experience, AdLab looks impressive on a resume.

“We know AdLab stands out on a resume because many people who are hiring and looking at resumes have AdLab on their resumes,” Berkovitz said.“We have an incredible network that goes back decades no matter where you go–Boston, New York, Chicago, L.A., international.”

Recruiters recognize the quality of students who have  participated in AdLab, and they are aware of the program’s academic and creative demands. Before working at Digitas in New York this past summer, Toppino met with one of the agency’s production executives at their Boston office – and she realized the executive already knew all about AdLab.

“The program is very well respected,” Toppino said. “AdLab makes a huge impact on your credibility when applying for jobs.”

If you want to work with real-world clients and gain invaluable experience, check out AdLab’s website and consider adding it to your spring schedule.


Shira Levin, Staff Writer

Shira Levin is a junior majoring in advertising. Born and raised in the City of Angeles, Shira is your typical West Coast native attempting to make it through another East Coast winter. Spot her around campus in oversized sunglasses, exercise leggings, and blacked-out Nikes.

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