The Thing about Ads: They Don’t Have to be Boring


Xiangyao Tang

A scooter charging station by George S. Eccles Student Life Center in Salt Lake City on Oct. 17, 2022. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Isaac Shaffer


The following content was written by AdThing, a student advertising agency within Student Media.


Whether they’re on TV, social media, billboards during your commute through the city or signs around campus, you’ll notice that most ads suck. The average person is exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements a day, according to Red Crow Marketing — most of which are mind-numbing nonsense. AdThing at the University of Utah has been on a mission to change just that. Full of creative prodigies, AdThing delivers meaningful, unique, story-driven advertising services for clients spread across the nation.

AdThing is an advertising agency staffed by real students, run by real pros, working for real clients right here at the U. AdThing was created by Bill Oakley, the former chief creative officer at McCann Worldgroup, to provide students with real-life, hands-on experience by throwing them into the deep end, and showing them what working in a fast-paced ad agency is like — this sets AdThing apart from other experiences at the U, teaching the next generation of advertisers how to be different, how to stand out and how to make advertising the art form that it used to be. The students that come out of this program are confident in their abilities and have gained the experience necessary to level up in their careers.

You’ve probably seen their work around campus. Some of their more prominent efforts, such as the “Doers Wanted” campaign at the David Eccles School of Business and U Health’s complete rebrand, are now staples within those respective schools. They’ve also been responsible for work outside of campus such as the Utah Department of Transportation’s campaign against distracted driving and Utah’s Planned Parenthood initiatives.

AdThing has a fun side too, as seen through their work with FREEB!RDS World Burrito, the U’s “Bike To Class” program and most recently, SPIN, showing off the witty minds of the students behind the agency.

What really sets AdThing apart, however, is the staff. The students are hand-picked, best-of-their-class writers, strategists, designers, photographers and filmmakers, coming from a variety of different backgrounds and majors including design, art, film, marketing and communications. Taught to be disruptive, unique and meaningful in their fields, AdThing’s staff has been primed for success. Everyone plays an essential role and has individual strengths that benefit the organization, but in the end, having the ability to work as a team to create a meaningful, memorable and distinctive piece of advertising, is what makes this group so special.

Meeting weekly, AdThing’s team of world-class students come together to discuss, strategize, design and pitch their best ideas for their clientele. Their process is simple, yet powerful with the creativity being almost palpable. Each week’s meeting is structured in a way to get students comfortable with sharing their ideas, starting with some quick icebreakers that break tension or nerves that may be in the room. Once everyone feels comfortable, the real meeting starts, and creativity excels.

Working together, they move down a list of their various upcoming projects, pitching, planning, writing and researching in order to deliver something refreshing to their clients. When the meeting is over, everyone has an individual assignment to create work that is well-suited to their positions on the team, which can then be assessed and refined by the rest of the staff in later meetings. By the end of the process, AdThing has created an ingenious advertisement that aims to command attention.

After their time at AdThing, these talented students will have learned the skills necessary to place themselves years ahead of their peers. Former AdThing members have moved on to work for prestigious companies such as Widen + Kennedy, National Geographic, Under Armour and Adobe, just to name a few. AdThing is renowned within the advertising industry for producing some of the most talented and creative advertisers of our generation.

So, if you’ve ever thought that ads suck, you’re right, but AdThing is actively striving to change that. This distinguished program at the U is giving students the opportunities necessary to start their careers and grow their talents, all while delivering exquisite work to their clients. AdThing is disrupting the flow, telling stories and making things meaningful and memorable, fulfilling their mission one ad at a time.