Allen Hall Advertising
Junior, Advertising Major
Codirector of Allen Hall Advertising
Dream career: Making short films, where I can travel the world and tell stories
Best aspect of Allen Hall Advertising: AHA has really given me a great insight into the real-world, fast-paced advertising industry. From the client meetings to campaign pitches, you get so much experience that prepares you for really any internship or job.
Greatest challenge during time at AHA: My most memorable project has definitely been working on the SOJC Values and helping the school get reaccredited. I got to design 12 icons that are used throughout the school and within many classes’ curricula.
“Allen Hall Advertising has shown me all the different functions of an agency, and because of that, I’ve been able to try out different positions and concentrations within advertising. I came into the advertising school wanting to be a designer and now I’m interested in art direction, copywriting, and even strategy!” — Travis Kim
Allen Hall Advertising Reaches for the Real-World Experience
The best way to describe Allen Hall Advertising is “real.”
That’s according to Tom McDonnell, the faculty advisor to AHA for the last four years. In that time span, the number of positions at the agency has more than doubled, and it offers advertising students what they can’t get in a classroom.
“AHA is where students get real client experience,” McDonnell says. “It’s having a client with a genuine business problem that you are ultimately responsible to, good or bad, and that the first answer isn’t always going to be the most acceptable or best answer. I think that’s probably the biggest difference for them in their academic careers.”
The agency is entirely student-run, comprising five codirectors who choose the 45 to 50 additional positions for the agency. Roles are varied and essential, offering experience to strategists, producers, videographers, photographers, editors, music editors, art directors, designers, copywriters, and account managers.
While other universities have student-run ad agencies, AHA is an anomaly: its clients are paying customers, and it runs an average of 10 to 12 campaigns a year.
“The students actually have to pitch their campaigns and convince the client that this is the best thing for their business,” McDonnell said. “There’s real money on the line here. We try to provide a real-world experience as closely as we possibly can.”
AHA's clients have included Oregon Taxi, University Theatre, the Erb Memorial Union, the New Venture Championship conference sponsored by the Charles H. Lundquist College of Business, Food for Lane County, Rokz, and the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, the agency staff members graduate with not only experience but a portfolio full of real—not assigned—work.
McDonnell said he has heard from alumni that agencies are “taken aback that they’ve done work for actual clients. People in the real world know just how hard it is to get stuff done; they know how hard it is to sell an idea to a client. Our ultimate goal is to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity for our clients, and get our students portfolio-worthy work.”
He adds that AHA alumni have landed in some of the top advertising agencies, not only in the country, but in the world, including firms such as Wieden+Kennedy, 72andSunny, WONGDOODY, MullenLowe, TBWA\Chiat\Day, and Media Arts Lab.
“I’m overwhelmed,” McDonnell said. “I’m stunned with our program overall, how well our students are doing—not only the numbers that are getting placed, but where they are getting placed.”
What Our Alumni Are Saying
BS '16 (Advertising)
Former AHA Codirector
How working at AHA prepared you for the workforce: It’s no secret that UO journalism (and advertising specifically) is full of experiential learning. You get out of it what you put into it. During my senior year, the most recognized student organizations within UO Ad were Ad Team and AHA, so I was beyond lucky to have been trusted as a one of those leaders. We were able to see a whole new side of the program—the functional side—so we learned how these tiny organizations (a metaphor for the real-world industry) worked from the perspective of both mentors and mentees.
Biggest challenge at AHA: As a director you get to be in the room for all the meetings. You’re not just brainstorming and creating, you’re planning, meeting clients, overseeing work. You see every angle of the business side and the creative side, and if you’re able to speak to that or empathize with that in any role, you’re going to go a long way.
Best advice: Work with Tom. Learn from Tom. Spend time just listening to Tom. Then ignore him maybe 5 percent of the time and try your own thing. The thing that’s different about AHA and other classes and programs that deal with a real client is this: if you don’t execute or if you don’t live up to your interview hype, your peers don’t just know it—your client knows it, and every AHA member after learns about it. You become a lesson.
Choose Your Own Adventure