AdLib Conference provides fresh perspective for students

Alumni in advertising jobs offer advice, experience

Alison Murtagh

Washington and Lee alumni who work in advertising, marketing and communications returned to their alma mater on Friday to speak to student and faculty participants in the fifth Annual AdLib Conference. Throughout the day alums gave talks and held panel discussions to share their industry experience.

Conference Co-Chair Jenna Faude, ’16,  said that the event started small but has grown over time.

“It started five years ago, more than anything, as just bringing a few speakers back to campus to talk to a group of interested students,” Faude said. “And then from that, they realized that there was interest and Professor [Amanda] Bower and a few of the students who were here definitely generated this idea that the more technical fields . . . can be really well supported by a liberal arts education.”

Alumni participants represented a wide range of firms and brands, including The Martin Agency, Edelman, AdLarge Media, JetBlue, Macy’s and Anheuser-Busch. Many of the speakers graduated with majors that were not directly related to the fields they work in now.

“I would say the purpose of the conference is to give students a picture of what is out there and introduce them to alums who are doing what they want to be doing, and it doesn’t matter what your background is or what your major might be,” Faude said. “You can major in history and get a job in a totally different industry. You don’t just have to be a history professor, or be a teacher, or go to grad school.”

One session was “Anatomy of a Campaign,” a talk led by Marty St. George, Executive Vice President of Commercial and Planning for JetBlue. Although St. George did not attend W&L, he was able to share with the audience his experiences working for JetBlue for nine years and how he helped the airline receive 11 J.D. Power Awards for customer satisfaction.

Mia Harvey, ‘19, attended the discussion.

“I came to AdLib because I’m interested in going into advertising or marketing, and I thought it was really interesting because I’ve never really heard someone in advertising or marketing talk before,” Harvey said. “And I thought that [St. George’s] outlook was interesting, and I liked how he did talk positively about other companies, not just his own.”

The conference included panel discussions about breaking into the industry, marketing beer, wine and spirits, and marketing luxury and retail goods. Marielle Lafaire, ‘16, thought the alumni panels were a great addition to the conference. Her time at W&L overlapped with some of the recent graduates who spoke.

“It was definitely pretty reassuring in the sense that if you don’t have a job right now . . . don’t really freak out because a lot of times things are last minute,” Lafaire said.

Participation in the conference was much greater than in past years. Lafaire said she thinks the increase is due to the greater emphasis in undergraduate courses on marketing, public relations and advertising.

“Some of the sessions that didn’t really have a lot of people last year were packed this year, which is really great and just shows that the liberal arts degree can translate into a PR or marketing position pretty easily because of those key skills of writing, reading, and communication that are instilled in every W&L student,” Lafaire said.