In our latest New Course Discourse feature, we meet Course Leader Dr Cui Su to find out more about MA Advertising, an exciting new postgraduate option which started in 2014.
Can you give us a basic outline of the course?
MA Advertising mainly deals with how technology has changed – or how it impacts – advertising practice, how people react to advertising, and how people interact with it.
The main focus of the course is very much on digital, interactive, global advertising, so there’s a strong technological slant to it. This is partly to distinguish from BA (Hons) Advertising, which deals with more of the foundational principles of advertising, art direction and copywriting.
Here we’re asking bigger questions about technology. It’s a mixed course, so it’s half practice, half theory. ‘Contemporary advertising practice meets cutting edge theory’.
We engage with all kinds of media theory about social networks, big data – and also with debates that are in the public realm right now. So things to do with privacy, surveillance, all these big issues that will affect consumers.
On the practical side we do work on briefs – we’re currently working on the D&AD New Blood briefs – doing practical advertising work with interdisciplinary practitioners.
We have an art director pop in from a creative agency, for example, and we have a design researcher who’s done interaction design. The MA responds to the industry.
I think the industry’s working out what to do with new technology, how to react to it – and you can see this in the new job roles that are coming up. It’s not just art director, copywriter, account planner – you’ve got technologists, data strategists, digital roles.
It’s really about getting to grips with the changes and impact of technology on advertising practice. I think it’s exciting.
Can you explain more about what the step up from undergraduate to postgraduate study in advertising involves?
Students would definitely experience a change in terms of more high-level thinking, applying theory to practice and having practice inform theory. There will be that iterative cycle, and there will be more independent research.
The PG course is more research-intensive and we hope to eventually have PhD students as well, so that’s the reason for having this theoretical and research slant. In terms of practice, I guess the difference is we deal with bigger questions that transcend just responding to a client brief.
We’re not really like, for example, the Miami Ad School or Hyper Island – we do a combination of both theory and practice, and place them on an equal footing. Portfolios are important but they’re not the only thing.
The idea is to get our graduates one rung up above all the other candidates – just to have experimented a little bit more.
What is the particular advantage of studying advertising at LCC?
I think there’s a huge advantage to studying advertising in an art/design-led school, because it’s not seen as a subsidiary component.
Typically in this country you see advertising courses in a business school, as part of their marketing department, and you maybe study a module called advertising as part of your wider degree in marketing, marketing communications, or business.
Here it’s front and centre. We take it very seriously and we take a very creative approach, so although we do take into account a lot of marketing principles, we’re asking slightly different questions that are more focused on media, impact, the relationship with creativity – things like that.
I think LCC’s also a good place to do that because it’s in London – the beating heart of the advertising industry. It’s a nice combination – aware of the bottom line and also interested in innovation and creativity.
How did your current students arrive on the course, and what will you be looking for in future applicants?
The age ranges between 22 and 40. Currently we have a student who’s already got his own company and has been a graphic designer for many years, and he’s looking to skill up.
We have a student from Malaysia who’s been in the industry for years and just wants to gain skills in a more formal setting, and we also have people who’ve come straight from BAs in art direction, design or marketing. But we also have a medic!
It’s quite eclectic, and I think we want to keep it that way, because it ties in with the whole interdisciplinary approach. I think it’s worked really well, in that the students are able to bring their experiences and interact with each other.
Ideally I would like my applicants to have had some work experience, although that’s not a requirement – only because they could bring their professional experience into the classroom, which would be very useful.
I think this course would suit anything from a BA Literature to a BA Computer Science graduate; somebody who wants to get into advertising and hasn’t been able to, and wants to know about some of the bigger issues; or someone who wants a career change.
Where might the MA course lead for its graduates?
After the MA preferably they would stand out from the marketing graduates. In terms of job destinations, I would think they could become digital strategists, planners, creative directors, copywriters.
The technology side of the course content is not so much to turn them into coders, but if you’re an art director and you’re talking about a campaign that involves an app, you’re able to talk to a developer on an equal footing.
The knowledge and skills you gain from the course allows you to interact confidently with coders and app designers. You’re able to understand the literacy of the technology and its potential applications and, possibly, restrictions.
So I’d say they would run the full gamut of jobs – community manager to art director to setting up their own business.