Alumnus emphasizes bringing values to the workplace during AdLib keynote address

Jeffrey Buntin, Jr., ’95, describes how staying true to his values has benefitted him in his extensive marketing career


Jeffrey Buntin Jr., ’95, speaks at Stackhouse Theater. Photo Courtesy of W&L AdLib.

Paige Williams

Values will help you more than your skillset, and Washington and Lee will give you both said Jeffery Buntin Jr., ’95, in his keynote address for the fifth annual AdLib conference.

Buntin is the President and CEO of the Buntin Group, Tennessee’s largest advertising agency that provides a holistic approach to marketing.

After graduating from Washington and Lee, Buntin worked in advertising for the first time in Chicago. He acquired the Buntin Group in 2004 from his father.

Buntin advised students to focus primarily on their values. He says he learned his own strong values while growing up on his family’s farm outside Nashville.

His childhood influences his work with clients and how he runs his own company. “We dig deep as an organization,” Buntin said. Buntin’s company works to get to know the inner voice of the client.

He familiarizes himself with all parts of the organization before even producing ads.

Standard communication is transitioning into experience, he said. Brands need to incorporate authenticity, importance and endearing into their experiences.

Buntin advised students to take several specific values into the transitioning advertising industry.

“No person is small,” he said.

Working in Chicago on the 27th floor of an office building, he said he would look down at the little people below. That company viewed its audience as small as those people looked and it conflicted with his set of beliefs.

Buntin also said the industry is currently obsessed with what’s different. He ad- vises to seek what people have in common instead.

There is greater emotional impact in areas where people have common experiences. Computers can’t calculate these emotional impacts.

Numbers, data and the digital world are not as important as being present. “Our heads are down as humans,” he said. “Look up at life.”

Caroline Drennan, ‘18, said she enjoyed what Buntin had to say. “He had a lot of great advice to offer,” she said. “He spoke very intelligently abouthow his values would serve us well in a rapidly changing industry.”

With his advice, Buntin also reminded students that things can and will go wrong in the marketing industry.

“When all else fails,” he said. “Have the most class.”