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Student-run marketing and advertising agency launching at business school

  • Staff meeting
    Staff meeting  Students gather for a meeting of the Agency 1693 marketing and advertising agency that was established this year at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business.  Courtesy photo
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Students, faculty and staff at William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business have started a student-run marketing and advertising agency that is quickly growing.

Formed in the spring and firmed up when the fall semester started, Agency 1693 is putting pieces into place to handle jobs from the campus and local communities. Approximately 60 students are involved and three advisors — Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing Dawn Edmiston, Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center Executive Director Graham Henshaw and Chief Marketing Officer Jeffrey Rich — are overseeing them.

Affiliated with the business school marketing department and Mason’s Student Marketing Association, the agency is looking to provide students with paid work experience while serving the campus and local business communities. It is open to all students and is encouraging non-business majors to lend their expertise in any area they have it in.

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An 11-student executive board is overseeing the agency with Trevor Jackson ’18 serving as president and Madelin Bender ’18 as strategy director. Both, marketing majors, said that the endeavor also helps put marketing on the map since 45 percent of Mason’s students are finance majors.

“You can’t find this in a class,” Jackson said. “You can’t find this in a club right now. We definitely want to give them something where this is real-world experience. You’re going to get real experience from working with these clients that you’re not going to get still in college just within the school.”

Since classes started, the group has built a schedule to discuss projects and plans, instituted office hours and unveiled its website and social media channels. Its officers include account service directors for potential clients — one for on campus, one for nonprofits and one for small and large business sectors.

Early work has included various assignments for the business school and its Entrepreneurship Center ranging from logos, signage and graphic design to videos and social media. Potential clients both on and off campus are negotiating for future work.

Bender said that the current focus is on getting the agency’s name out and establishing it as a freestanding agency and an organization that’s producing professional work. The combination of interest generated from that push, referrals and approaching members of their own networks is the strategy for acquiring ongoing work.

“Every case is different,” Bender said. “But I think that’s why we like this kind of work, because everything is different and exciting.”

Trevor Jackson '18, president of Agency 1693, gives a presentation at a meeting of the agency's students. (Courtesy photo)Edmiston, who is also faculty advisor for the SMA, said she gets dozens of requests for student support from local organizations. Now she can send them to Agency 1693.

“What’s great about having an agency structure is that younger students can learn from the more experienced students about what needs to be done, about what the expectations are, about potentially the courses they should be taking to help grow their skills and their talents to be able to contribute at the agency level,” Edmiston said.

“So there’s definitely, from a faculty perspective, a win-win because I can teach them the concepts in the classroom. And then they can be excited about being able to apply those concepts in the ad agency environment.”

Henshaw said the Entrepreneurship Center needed a new logo and he asked for student help, which resulted in a logo created and on stickers from the W&M Print Shop within three days. The idea of the agency falls right in line with the lessons he teaches on spotting and exploring business opportunities to fill existing needs.

“What the agency is doing, and how they are going about it, is very entrepreneurial and the center is happy to support it,” Henshaw said.

Rich is where marketing lessons meet real-world experience, and he is melding the two together as he has done in starting similar agencies at two other colleges and universities. Numerous requests for work and especially video production for Agency 1693 are coming in, but he is taking a measured approach.

“What we’re focused on right now is laying the foundation for establishing structure and processes that will allow us to consistently deliver on client assignments,” Rich said. “The learning curve is steep, but our students are incredibly smart, and I’m amazed at their ability to work at a professional level almost immediately.

“It’s important that we are methodical in how we roll this out. While Agency 1693 team members want to take on outside client work immediately, our plan is to progress from internal work for the business school, to broader work in support of departments across William & Mary, then begin to take on work for area nonprofits and local businesses in need of marketing support. That will benefit our students and the community.”

Each request for work is evaluated, a proposal is formulated and students with skill sets matching the request will be assigned to it. Fees will be negotiated on a client-by-client basis with some work done pro bono.

One of the challenges is that student turnover will happen every couple of years, so the faculty and staff component is expected to provide the continuity. Cultivating younger students is a goal to help with that.

“I have to find the balance between making this a student-driven initiative, yet providing professional oversight through me and my staff in the marketing department, and professors Edmiston and Henshaw,” Rich said.

Bender said the student group’s range of diversity in ages, areas of expertise and interests is going to be core to its identity.

“We have the initial presence of being associated with William & Mary, and that goes a long way for the agency,” Jackson said. “We are trying to establish ourselves not as a club but as a freestanding agency. But our relationship with William & Mary’s huge because that gives us the initial, hey, these are William & Mary students kind of aspect.”