All Paths Lead To Advertising – Sort Of.
Growing up I always wanted to be a treasure hunter. Travel the world, discover ancient civilizations, and wear fashionable tweed suits. Basically I wanted to be Indiana Jones. Lucky for me, part of that was doable. See, Indiana Jones was an archaeologist, which is one of the four fields of anthropology. The other three fields being cultural anthropology, linguistics, and biological (or physical) anthropology. The four-field approach was developed by the god father of modern anthropology, Franz Boas, but you don’t need to know that – unless you’re going to study anthropology.
Way before I even planned to get into Advertising, I thought I was going to be the greatest treasure hunter the world had ever seen. I had always seen advertisement around me, and in the back of my head I had thought about how cool it would be to be able to be a part of that creative process. However, I really enjoyed the idea in my head of traveling the world with a history of a thousand cultures in my back pocket. It wouldn’t be until later in my academic career that I would realize that what I learned through studying anthropology would translate directly into my work within advertising. Anthropologists develop a certain awareness about cultures and develop a mindset that allows them to view the world around them in a way that many other people can’t. This is primarily what I would take with me into my professional career working in advertising. Until then I was still set on taking the classes that interested me at the time.
I went into my freshman year of college without the faintest idea of what I was going to study, but I went in as architecture major. My dreams of becoming a fabled treasure hunter had faded, and I was going through the motions of taking major classes, and trying to get my general education requirements done. That’s when I happened to come across an intro to anthropology class. It was actually a cultural anthropology class, but I didn’t know that at the time. It sounded interesting enough, so I enrolled in the class. From the first day I was completely enthralled, and soon I was scrolling through all the available anthropology related classes I could take at the school. Archaeology definitely stood out to me as a class, and the faded dreams of traveling the world in pursuit of lost treasure to become the next Indy or Nathan Drake were alive and well.
I ended up finishing up all of the anthropology courses my Junior College had to offer, and was about to ship on out to my four-year. I grabbed a couple of associate’s degrees on the way, but had transferred over as a communications major with a focus in advertising. For whatever reason, I wouldn’t end up making anthropology my major – not on purpose anyway. I decided to pick up a minor in the subject, and continue on with Advertising as my main focus. While I had loved the study of Anthropology, by making it something that would consume my academic life I felt that it would lose that fabled appeal that had drawn me to it in the first place.
Another year and a couple months went by and I was sitting at my desk looking through my degree audit making sure that I’d have enough units to graduate. For whatever reason I ran a what-if option for if I had chosen to be an anthropology major. I wanted to see how different my course load would have been. I scrolled through the degree audit and got to the end, and then I saw it. I was one course off from getting a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. Can you believe it? An accidental degree. I hadn’t planned on getting one, but had steadily been taking classes that sounded interesting to me to fill my GE requirements. Would I stay one extra semester just for one class to get another degree? A degree in a subject that I thoroughly enjoyed the ins and outs of? Probably not, but just the idea that I had gotten so close without having tried or attempted at all implanted the idea that maybe I should ditch the briefcase and suit in a New York City high-rise and hop on the first plane going down to Caral.
There’s this one quote that I heard from my professor of Contemporary Anthropology that will always stick with me. She looked around the room on the first day of class and asked each of us to introduce ourselves with our name and why we study anthropology. She was quiet as we went around the room, and at the end when all of us finished she said, “Every single one of you may be different, may have different reasons why you’re here, why you chose anthropology, but all of you said the same exact thing about why you’re studying anthropology – because you fell in love with it.” No one gets into anthropology because they don’t love it, because they don’t have some passion for it, which can’t be said for a lot of the other majors and fields of study out there. So why did I study anthropology? Because it would have felt wrong if I didn’t.
How did it all relate to working in advertising, and getting into an industry with what you learned in a completely different field of study? Well to start, you’d be surprised at how much of what you learn regardless of what you study is transferable to other subjects. While my personally academic passion subject was anthropology, there are countless other subjects that one could study that would apply directly to the field of advertising. It takes the type of person that would succeed in advertising to be able to apply their life experiences directly into their work. No one person is the same in the way that they lived their lives, what field they studied, or what career path they chose. This is what makes people entirely unique in their way of thinking, and the way that they are able to become an effective working individual in the advertising industry.