A Must-Take Class for Advertising Students: Welcome to AdLab

Boston University Student Portfolios — adlab
Photo provided by BU AdLab

BU’s College of Communication offers a wide variety of clubs, events, and classes all designed to help students learn the trade of advertising – and the BU AdLab is no exception. As the country’s largest student-run agency, AdLab offers its students a look into the day-to-day of agency work while providing hands-on experience working with Boston clients.  

“It’s an environment where you can grow,” said Lindsey Rosenblatt, AdLab’s president. “I’ve learned so much through the program, so I’m really grateful for it.”

Each semester, students are selected for one of the four departments – art, copy, project management, and strategy – and are assigned to clients in teams. From there, teams work together to produce the deliverables. On top of creating real work to be published, AdLab also helps strengthen key skills needed within the industry. 

“AdLab helps you get used to it; seeing your work, getting feedback from your team, collaboration,” said Hannah Schweitzer, an AdLab alum who graduated from BU in January 2021. “You can’t get that structure anywhere else.”

The fast-paced class is also supervised by two faculty members: Professors Doug Gould and Michelle Sullivan, who were brought in for their own experience in the advertising industry. They mainly focus on mentoring AdLab’s e-board; for them, the class is about helping students recognize their potential. 

“[I love] watching students become leaders,” said Gould. “Some of them are remarkable…and you find yourself questioning whether you’re really dealing with a student, in that they’re that smart and savvy at 20, 22 years old.”

In addition to the practical experience students gain in AdLab, they also hear from weekly guest speakers about job hunting, what to do when there’s a difficult client, and how to grow a career. From the former CEO of Xbox to the current CCO of BBDO, students get to hear from a wide range of individuals making their name in the industry. 

Students are also given the opportunity to work with real industry software – AdLab is organized through Basecamp, a project management tool that allows for sharing messages, schedules, and files on one online platform. It was AdLab’s use of this software that allowed the class to continue its work through the coronavirus pandemic relatively unaffected. 

“We were already set up to communicate from remote locations without disruption,” said Gould. “We were fortunate.”

While the change to entirely online work was difficult for everyone, the pandemic didn’t stop AdLab’s determined students.

“We still create the same type of work we’ve been creating, but it’s just happening online,” said Rosenblatt.

And create they have – AdLab has delivered clever, engaging work for various clients, such as Wayfair, Rave, and Stryde. Students who have worked in AdLab have also garnered multiple awards over their careers at BU at prestigious award shows such as the Hatch Awards and The One Show’s Young Ones. 

Undoubtedly, the experiences within AdLab make it a vital part of any advertising student’s career. Nevertheless, there’s another component of the class that its students find invaluable: the people they meet. 

“I’m so passionate about advertising and the creative industry, and it was so exciting to meet other people with the same passions as me,” said Rosenblatt. “I have met so many driven and talented people in AdLab [and have] learned so much from my peers, which I never really expected to.”

Schweitzer agreed. “The network is a big thing – those people will always be in your back pocket.”

No matter what one finds the most important aspect, it’s clear that AdLab provides a formative experience and should be taken by any student who plans to work in advertising. 

“The best way to think of AdLab is an on-the-job learning experience,” said Sullivan. “You’re getting a really strong sense of what it’ll be like to be an advertising professional in the outside world because you are doing that job. It’s not learning about it or thinking about it, but doing it.”

For its faculty advisors, it’s imperative that AdLab remains as authentic as possible. Gaining real-world experience not only gives students an advantage in job applications, but it allows for students to be ready for the next step after graduation. Sullivan specifically cited how gratifying it feels to know that AdLab gave practical training. 

“The most rewarding part is to hear students come back and say, ‘That was the best thing I could have done to prepare me for the job I have now,’” she said.

Chiara Marshall, Staff Writer

Born and raised in Bermuda, Chiara Marshall is a second-year in the College of Communications studying Advertising with a minor in Psychology. A life-long lover of storytelling, Chiara joined The COMmunicator to hone her skills in preparation for her future career. She looks forward to writing this semester. In her free time, Chiara can be found swimming, paddle boarding with friends, or baking.

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