Yesterday, I had a great opportunity to speak to the current classes at VCU's Adcenter. 150 graduate students in the #1 advertising school in the country. It was atypical for me as the head of a digital influence business within a public relations agency to be addressing these students who are all immersed in the lessons of Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy and their descendants.
The session focused on the great opportunity we all have as communicators because of the confluence of social media, peer-to-peer word of mouth and technology. We can move beyond considering how to "reach" consumers or "target audiences" to how to "engage" this new wave of content creators. Engagement has been a foundation of our 360° Digital Influence team since the beginning. And I was just talking with Pete Blackshaw about his own initiative to define how to quantify and define "engagement".
Many thanks to Peter C. (great lunch, thank you), Karen, Ashley and Rick B. I had a terrific time. Your students are way sharp.
In the middle of the presentation, someone asked a hypothetical question about a dog named Oscar.
The Dog Controversy
Turns out it isn't hypothetical. While I know the Adcenter wants the story to go away, I see this as a valuable "teachable moment." But probably not for the obvious reasons. Here's the short story as documented in the press:
"It all began last week when Mike Lear, an adjunct professor at the Adcenter, gave his creative-thinking class an assignment involving his dog."Your assignment is to make my 6-year-old pug, Oscar, famous," Lear said, as part of written instructions to his class.Then things exploded.A user of MySpace, a social-networking Web site, made a blog posting that said he was going to kill Oscar online this week.The user identified himself as Jason, a 19-year-old male _ a swinger _ from Richmond.Around the globe, through the reach of the Internet, people began expressing concern and outrage about the possible online slaughter of Oscar.The Adcenter began receiving calls from animal activists and others expressing alarm, administrators said.Richmond police were contacted, and dispatched officers to the Adcenter.Police subsequently issued a media alert saying it had been determined that "this threat is the result of a VCU student's assignment that went awry. We want to stress that at no time was any animal in danger."
""You cannot harm my dog in any way. You cannot kill my dog. And your idea cannot hinge on either," he said, in a written memo."