American Advertising Federation provides students with career start

The summer before his sophomore year, John Buysse, junior in Media and Illini Media employee, was folding t-shirts and tidying up shop at Campus Colors, the same part-time job he had in high school. This past summer, Buysse went from greeting customers to researching consumer satisfaction and developing a social media strategy at his internship with McDonald’s Corporation — a complete career turn-around if there ever was one.

Buysse credits the American Advertising Federation (AAF) for this leap from having an after-school job to interning at a consistently Top 10-ranked brand in social media.

“It felt like I went from a part-time job to the start of my career in only a year,” Buysse said. “I can legitimately say I would not have been able to do this without immersing myself in AAF and using it to gain experience.”

The AAF chapter at the University is the largest in the country. With over 400 members, it may seem intimidating for freshmen to get their foot in the door, but Diana Lee, junior in Media and current president of AAF Illinois, assures underclassmen they need not worry about having their voices heard. There’s no seniority policy here to hinder those with less experience.

“A freshman should have just as good a chance as any to earn a title or become a board member of a committee,” she said. “We are always open to new ideas and we want all of our members to feel valued.”

Currently, AAF is made up of 10 committees in which students have the opportunity to gain real world industry experience. Midnight Oil and On the House are two stand-out committees that operate as student-run ad agencies for the local community. Midnight Oil’s current clients consist of Illini Football Recruitment, The Art Theater, Viewfinders, Erika’s Cakes and More, LIVE WILD, Eat-CU and more.

On the House provides campaigns for campus RSOs and student start-ups such as Illini Medical Screen Society (IMSS), Penny Dreadful Players (PDP), Acting on AIDS and Teachers for Creatures.

Buysse said both committees are very team-oriented. Being a part of them is a great way to help make the club seem smaller while also developing a working portfolio, he added.

“I know it’s overused, but the word ‘innovative’ is the best way to describe our mindset,” Buysse said.

Lee also noted that the club is constantly changing, adapting and looking for newcomers to become leaders and make an impact.

Tom Yadron, junior in Media, is one of those people.

Yadron joined AAF during the fall semester of his freshman year, still undeclared and unsure if advertising was for him. After joining On the House and taking an upper-level advertising class, Yadron declared his major and became even more involved with AAF his sophomore year by becoming part of the National Student Advertising Contest team. Now in his third year of AAF, he is on the executive board and the agency coordinator of Midnight Oil.

“Midnight Oil is great because we get to work with real businesses in the Champaign-Urbana area and see our work first-hand,” he said.

Yadron has helped with the creation of player pamphlets for Illini Football recruitment among other projects.

Contrary to popular belief, AAF is not solely comprised of ad majors.

“We have people in graphic design, communications, computer science, you name it,” Buysse said.

Lee said that her favorite part of the RSO is the diversity.

“Everyone has come from such different paths and there are so many different combinations of experience,” she said. “We really are this great melting pot for creativity.”

The general meeting for AAF was this Tuesday, but an informal coffee hour is being held today at the Courtyard Café in the Union at 6:30 p.m. for those who missed the meeting or are interested in chatting with the current executive members.

_Emily Harnden can be reached at harnden1@dailyillini.com._