Uncategorized | February 06, 2004

To any literary snobs out there, prepare to turn up your nose, sniff, and look away. Prepare to lament the commercialization of our society. Not only will I graduate with a degree in English this May; I will also have a degree in advertising—one that I’ll use (hopefully) to secure a job as a copywriter at an agency in Minneapolis.

There I’ll join the ranks of men and women responsible for creations such as finger-shaking Mr. Whipple telling us not to squeeze the Charmin and an entourage of other salesmen in disguise. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those pesky people marching in and out of your favorite TV shows, selling you products you might not need. You never know, I may even create one of those annoying cardstock inserts—the ones stuck inside magazines that make you flip open to the same page every time. I haven’t abandoned my goal of writing fiction. That’s in the future too. But unless you’re Stephen King or this week’s Powerball winner, it’s not a good first job.

When I first chose to double-major, I thought the degrees would work well together. In English, I read a lot and write a lot, and in advertising, I read a lot and, well, write a lot. What a perfect blend…

Or maybe not. As each semester went along, I had a greater feeling of jumping back and forth between two distinct worlds, neither of which seemed to fit me. In my English classes I felt like an advertising major and in my advertising classes, I felt like an English major. In one day I might progress from reading Missouri Review submissions, to coming up with interesting ways to sell toilet bowl cleaner, to reading Shakespeare’s Henry V. The effect? A jarring mix of poetry and marketing, of literary art and commercial art. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s like trying to do the Polka to a waltz.

However, as the semester went along, something unexpected happened. My majors began to work together. I began to apply the writing skills from my English classes to my advertising classes. I found that the same stylistic elements that improve a story improve an ad as well, such as voice, personality, and humanity.

The sense of swinging between two distinct worlds never really left, but I found a way to reap the benefits of both. I realized that even if I’m not an editor in New York, the skills I developed as an English major will help me in any job.

So until I publish that great first novel, you can find me sitting in a Minneapolis ad agency, pondering the advantages of crunchy versus creamy peanut butter (or something to that effect), giving my brain a great creative workout.

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