Soaking Up The Future: Spring Break In The Big Apple

This spring break, staff writer Mae Davis took part in COM’s annual New York City advertising trip, where she toured agencies such as Giant Spoon, GoogleLabs, and R/GA.

Professor Tobe Berkovitz led 12 advertising seniors and graduate students during the March trip to New York.

For most, spring break is about tan lines and living on island time. However, for myself and 11 other advertising students, it was about networking and learning. We spent our break visiting advertising agencies and meeting alumni in New York City.

The annual COM Spring Break NYC Advertising Agency Tour began in 2000, aiming to expose students to a variety of agency cultures. Professors Tobe Berkovitz and Pegeen Ryan directed the trip, with the help of Jenn Underhill, assistant to Dean Feidler. The trip itself was free, with the exception of transportation and housing, which we paid ourselves. However, each of us received a Livingston Scholarship to help cover costs, generously donated by Nancy Livingston and Fred Levin.

Every year, the trip takes students to multiple world-renowned agencies, and this year was no exception. In three days, we visited R/GA, Firstborn, Anomaly, Giant Spoon, Media Kitchen/KBS, and Google Labs. We heard from alumni and employees about their transitions from college to the working world. Many of the alumni participated in the trip themselves when they were at BU, and some even landed their first jobs through the connections they made.

R/GA was the first agency we visited, and I was overwhelmed in the best way possible. Shawn Zupp (COM ’95), a group account director at R/GA, presents for this trip every year, and he brought together multiple employees to help. It was a very intimate setting, and I was extremely impressed by how comprehensive the presentation was. We learned about covering accounts, creative work, and strategy development.

Zupp also showed us some of his most celebrated works, including the Love Has No Labels and Donate a Photo campaigns. It was very clear that Zupp is passionate about his work and loves sharing it with BU students. He and R/GA definitely set the bar high for the rest of the trip.

A look inside the open environment R/GA fosters, allowing employees to collaborate.

Afterward, we all headed over Firstborn, a creative digital innovation company. There, we met up with Dan LaCivita (COM ’02) who began working at Firstborn as a flash developer in 2004 and has since become its CEO. Through a collection of Firstborn’s work, like Gruesome Gotham, LaCivita opened our eyes to the future world of mobile-augmented reality. He also shared with us the direction that Firstborn is taking with artificial intelligence, chat-based interfacing, and physical computing.  

We wrapped up our first day at Anomaly, Ad Age’s 2017 Agency of the Year. In a casual setting next to the company’s bar (pictured below), we talked with Colby Burlingame (COM ’08) and her team, which works on creative, brand strategy, and social strategy. Everyone was young, fresh, and clearly excited about the work they do. The team was honest with us and said there may be some long nights and weekends, but that you will be surrounded by people with whom you enjoy working.

I also found it interesting to learn that Anomaly actually creates intellectual property, which it can license to clients for revenue. Burlingame showed us how it does this with hmbldt, a cannabis vape pen the agency helped launch.

Anomaly’s sixth floor bar, where the team celebrates company milestones.

On day two, we started our morning at Giant Spoon, a marketing agency Trevor Guthrie (COM ’06) founded just five years ago. Guthrie presented to us alongside Kate Worthey (COM ’12) and a few other employees.

For being such a young company, it sure does a lot. Giant Spoon is a full-service agency built because Guthrie–and his partners in Los Angeles–felt like media was not creative enough.

We went through about eight of the agency’s campaigns, and it was probably the most engaging two hours of my life. Giant Spoon is one of the only experiential groups that exists and does the work in-house. For example, at San Diego Comic-Con 2017, Giant Spoon took consumers into Blade Runner 2049 with a complete immersive environment experience and are now repeating that in Austin, Texas for HBO’s Westworld.

In the afternoon, we visited Media Kitchen/KBS, where Brooke Reno (COM ’06) works as a group director and has been quite successful with the company. She opened up the London office last year, and then returned to New York.

Reno brought in employees from strategy, media, business leadership, and creative fields. We learned about the team’s process and how it looks for insights and create creative work. The speakers inspired us to keep ourselves present by staying grounded in culture. Key findings are not always found at a desk, they said, and it is important to go out in the world and observe.

Tuesday evening, we all took a break from touring, but not a break from networking! We traveled to Cooper’s Craft & Kitchen for a MiniGanza reception with over 100 alumni in attendance, as well as the Spring Break PR Agency Tour students.

During this fun and high-energy event, I talked with alumni from agencies such as Grey, Ogilvy, Omnicom Media Group, and BBDO. They each gave me advice about some do’s and don’ts for my first job. As I talked to them, it was clear to me they all simply love what they do and have fun doing it. I was humbled to be in the same room with all of them and hope to love my first job as much as they all love theirs.

Legos encourage creativity at Google and can be seen throughout its office, including its café.

On our last day, we battled winter storm Quinn and took a tour of Google’s Creative Lab with Nooka Jones (COM ’10), one of the team leads.

The building was impressive, pretty much dominating a whole city block. The Creative Lab sits inside, marketing across all of Google’s products and displaying the “magic” that these products perform in connecting with users.

Jones and other employees showed us how they do this through campaigns for Google products, such as Google Assistant and Chromebook. They also work on creating prototypes, like the virtual reality headsets for Expeditions, which are now used in classrooms across the world. The coolest part about their jobs were just how big of an impact the products have on culture not only in America–but around the globe.

I traveled back home reflecting on all I saw. All the agencies we visited had incredible workspaces, highly motivated employees, and creative cultures. The trip gave me insight as to which factors I should consider when applying for my first job. It was also cool to connect with other seniors and graduate students on the trip–and to learn about their time at BU and their career goals.

For those interested in the trip in the coming years, I cannot speak more highly of it. You get a window into the future of advertising, a chance to connect with alumni, and a plethora of job tips – a true way to B U!



Mae Davis, Staff Writer

Mae Davis is a Senior in the College of Communication studying Advertising with a minor in Business Administration. She is passionate about serving others through creative solutions. In her free time, you can find her trying new restaurants, shopping, and exploring hidden areas of Boston.

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