Is College Outdated? Should It Teach Real-World Marketing Skills?

On one hand, many universities could be doing a better job giving students opportunities to practice real-world marketing skills. On the other, universities are not meant to be training departments for digital media agencies, and it’s unrealistic to expect faculty members who don’t work in the field to keep up with the rapidly changing dynamic of media planning and buying.

Shay Rowbottom of Margle Media posted a video rant on LinkedIn a few weeks ago about a recent college grad she interviewed who had no digital media buying experience. She blames colleges and universities for not keeping up with the times. Knowing that I do a lot of teaching at the college level, Paul Bobnak tagged me asking what I thought. I think it’s complicated.

On one hand, many universities could be doing a better job giving students opportunities to practice real-world marketing skills. On the other, universities are not meant to be training departments for digital media agencies, and it’s unrealistic to expect faculty members who don’t work in the field to keep up with the rapidly changing dynamic of media planning and buying.

Despite being an advertising and marketing major at a large university, the only media buying experience Shay’s job candidate had was in traditional media, specifically billboards and newspaper. She condemns higher education for not keeping pace with the current state of media buying (and shows her ageism fangs in the process):

“You know what, kid, if you land a job at an old company that’s ran (sic) by 60 year olds who still don’t want to transition any of their media dollars to social media then good, good, good. I’m glad you learned the billboards.”

Shay says that something is wrong if a newly hired college grad has to be trained by her agency’s digital media buyer, a college dropout who’s a highly skilled practitioner, self-taught on the Internet. To that I say, “Who better to learn from than someone who does it every day and is really good at it?”

Shay makes a valid point that too many institutions are behind the curve when it comes to integrating real-world skills into their curriculum. But her expectations are valid only if you believe that colleges and universities exist to provide job training. I’ve worked at Rowan, Rutgers and Temple universities. They each hire industry professionals for full- and part-time teaching positions in advertising and PR. But the full-time faculty members at these institutions don’t do media planning every day, so they can’t possibly keep up with the innovations in a rapidly changing field.

Learning the mechanics of media buying is a vocational skill. Universities are not designed to be vocational schools. The ones where I’ve taught deliver a solid grounding in the principles of marketing and advertising; that’s what they do best. They provide value, because most of the underlying principles of marketing and advertising remain stable — even as the dynamics of the media world shift. Media planning and placement are best taught by practitioners who stay current by doing it.

Fortunately, there are several programs where college students can gain real-world experience in a competitive environment; specifically the Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge run by Marketing EDGE, the National Student Advertising Competition from the American Advertising Federation and the Google Online Marketing Challenge. These competitions are underutilized by academic institutions and employers, alike. More colleges and universities should offer and support these programs, more students should participate and more employers should seek out graduates who have had these experiences.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: How to Enjoy March Madness at Work (Thanks, Web Technology!)

As a die-hard sports fan, not to mention college basketball junkie, March is gluttony at its finest. I’m not alone in my revelry. Round-the-clock action serves as a rite of spring for sports fans across the nation, who are rooting on their alma maters, local universities and, of course, whomever they’ve penciled in to their brackets. But with the “madness” comes a real dilemma: How do you watch the games when they’re being played in the middle of the day during the workweek?

This week we have a guest post in my spot: Joe Keenan, senior editor of All About ROI and eM+C … and sports fan.

As a die-hard sports fan, not to mention college basketball junkie, March is gluttony at its finest. I’m not alone in my revelry. Round-the-clock action serves as a rite of spring for sports fans across the nation, who are rooting on their alma maters, local universities and, of course, whomever they’ve penciled in to their brackets. But with the “madness” comes a real dilemma: How do you watch the games when they’re being played in the middle of the day during the workweek?

Worry no more. CBSSports.com has got you covered — and without the risk of getting caught. (CBS is the official broadcast network of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.) While the site has broadcast live streaming video of NCAA tournament games since 2004, helping stranded office workers like me keep track of the action, the threat of getting caught by the boss was always a deterrent hanging out there.

Enter the “Boss Button,” a tool that when clicked hides the live video action on the screen and silences the audio, replacing it with a “business-like” image. Slacking off at work has never been made so easy.

Designed by cartoonist Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic, the boss button was first rolled out in 2009 to more than 2.77 million clicks. The functionality has been redesigned for this year’s tournament, and sneaky office workers have taken notice: The button was clicked more than 1.7 million times on the tournament’s first day alone, more than 60 percent of the total clicks of the boss button for the entire 2009 tournament.

And there’s an entire contingent of fans out there who are watching the action apparently without repercussions. Consider the following traffic statistics released last week from CBSSports.com:

  • 3.4 million hours of live streaming video and audio were consumed by 3 million unique visitors to the NCAA March Madness on Demand video players on the first day of the tournament last Thursday, a 20 percent growth versus 2009 — both numbers represent the largest single day of traffic for a live sporting event on the internet;
  • 2 p.m. to 2:59 p.m. ET was the most watched hour last Thursday with 533,000 streaming hours (16 percent of the total for the day), peaking at 2:45 p.m. with 147,000 streaming hours; and
  • the most watched game from last Thursday was the double-overtime Florida vs. BYU game with 521,000 hours of streaming video and audio, a 50-plus percent increase over 2009’s most watched game from the first day of the first round (Washington vs. Mississippi State).

“The continuing evolution of NCAA March Madness on Demand gives our fans even more reasons to stay connected to the tournament on a daily basis,” said NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball and Business Strategies Greg Shaheen in a CBSSports.com press release. “Tremendous first round games, enhanced features in the MMOD player and solid early traffic numbers all point towards an exciting few weeks to come.”

Has your company found success streaming video online? How about implementing a special functionality on your site such as a boss button? Tell us about your experiences by posting a comment below.