Ad Grads: A Commencement Speech


No, we’re not quite as cool as Charlie Day or Will Ferrell, but our contributors have some things to say to you, dear graduates. They’ve been there, they know what you should expect, and care deeply that you start your careers on the right foot from the very beginning. Consider this a “speech” that you’ll want to keep at the ready from time to time in your first year in advertising.


Here you are with a crisp sheet of paper, a twinkle in your eye, and a shiny new pair of shoes to walk you into the rest of your life. Congrats. As you head forward in careerland, keep this one thing in mind: always be true to you. Your long term success will benefit from being a person that others find authentic. It means people will trust you. More importantly, you’ll trust you. You’ll make smart decisions and gamble only on risks that are worth it, because you’ll know they’re for you. (Anne Cayer)

Advertising isn’t for the faint of heart, the ultra-emotional (although crying is a common occurrence), the jealous or the unfaithful… But these attributes exist in the business. It’s a matter of how we deal with it. (Steve Picanza)

The most important part of your career is not the goals you set – it’s an open mind. Goals can motivate you, but an open mind propels you to reach them. Say yes to opportunity, knowing that it will lead you down an uncertain path. (Erica Nardello)

You’re not done.  KEEP LEARNING.

Whether it’s chatting up professionals in different disciplines or companies (aka informational interviews) or attending conferences, soak up all the information you can.   As a junior in the field, it’s important to ask questions and even do research on your own time about questions you have. You aren’t expected to know everything but you are expected to learn. (Angela Martin)

Be a human with interests outside advertising, as the best ideas come from life experience. Don't get lost in Keynote, because your clients will appreciate a worldly person who has a thirst for learning. After all, advertisers are the change agents who hold their clients’ best interests at heart. (Marc Phillips)

Accomplishments take different shapes after college, and oftentimes they mask themselves without the obvious recognition that comes with school. So look between the lines and pay attention to the finer things in life as much as the heavy ones. (Maryam Hosseini Davani)

We tend to pull ourselves down, get stressed and sometimes lose hope about finding a place in the industry. But Sally Hogshead's words rung like a bell and reinforced confidence in me years ago: "good talent gets poached." (Nani Salgoakar)

We live a life of expectations. We expect the best from ourselves and from others. We expect a great job and a happy family. We expect an existence graced with fortune and wisdom. “Nothing is impossible” works just 1% of the time. You will learn that life is really about the other 99%. So when you are exhausted from chasing that 1%, just stop, take a deep breath, clear your mind and embrace the awesomeness of the remaining 99%. (Fillipo Selden)

Make no mistake, there are some “practical” things to consider as you leave the walls of college. A few to think about: work for a “famous” company - this will look good on the resume. Try to get experience in a booming category like big data or mobile. Learn business development, it will help you in any future job. And work for someone that is smart and will be a positive influence. (Peter Levitan)

But don’t let the “practical” cloud your enthusiasm, zeal and desire to contribute in meaningful ways. At its very core, we are all “citizens” of a dynamic, exciting industry. To be a good citizen one should expect the same from the rest of the community. I’m often reminded and pleasantly surprised at the willingness of people to share what they know and love for the greater good. (Doug Zanger)

And one final thought, in the form of a poem.

Have big ideas and shoot for the stars,
No one gets anywhere without a few scars,
Don’t work too much, but put in your dues,
Challenge the norm and read all the news,
You’ll do great things, we’re confident you will,
Tighten your seatbelt and get ready for the thill. (Kate Favrow)

Best of luck, graduates. You’ll do great.










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