A Half-Century of Advertising Education at Michigan State University, East Lansing.
By Richard T. Cole and Gordon E. Miracle
The year 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of the Department of Advertising—now known as the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing—at Michigan State University. In 1958, the Dean of the recently established (1956) College of Communication Arts hired D’Arcy advertising executive John Crawford to serve as Chairman of a new Department of Advertising. There were no other known departments of advertising at that time. To serve as faculty members, Crawford hired professionals with BA, MA or MBA degrees in business administration, journalism or political science. Of the early faculty members, Kenward Atkin was the first to complete the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. He did so in MSU’s Department of Communication in 1961 while carrying a full teaching load.
The BA in advertising was initiated as a liberal arts degree, augmented with a few advertising and journalism courses. Within a few years more than 100 students per year were enrolled in the program. Gradually the department added more professional advertising courses. In about 1960 the Department of Advertising was authorized to offer the MA in advertising, and in the next few years granted about four or five MA degrees per year.
In the 1960s scholarly advertising research was done mainly by faculty members in colleges of business and schools of journalism. Although the early members of the Department of Advertising were not researchers, Michigan State’s status as a significant research university placed an expectation for research on all faculty members. Therefore, the mid 1960s was a period of dramatic change in the MSU advertising department. All but one of the early practitioner-oriented faculty members retired or left MSU for positions elsewhere by the end of the decade.
The hiring process for Ph.D. replacements —as well as for teachers with business experience — began when Gordon Miracle, Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin Business School, and previously a faculty member at The University of Michigan School of Business, was appointed associate professor in 1966. In early 1967, Miracle introduced a new course in international advertising at the undergraduate level, thought to be the first university course in international advertising taught at a US university. By the end of the decade departmental undergraduate enrollment increased to more than 200 students, and MA enrollment grew to about 45 per year.
Since the early 1960s and 1970s, student-run campaign courses were taught several times a year, sometimes with the support of large corporate advertisers. Later, in the mid 1970s MSU projects became so well known that sponsors were willing to pay several thousand dollars beyond the actual project costs. This extra money helped to develop and support other departmental courses and activities.
Kenward Atkin was appointed as the department’s second chairman in 1969 and served until 1974. During his term, the undergraduate program grew to more than 300 students and MA enrollment held steady at about 50. As new departmental faculty conducted more scholarly research and outreach activities, and as more agencies, corporations and media came to MSU to recruit students, the department’s reputation grew. More international students were attracted to the department, especially at the graduate level.
In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, MA graduates in advertising competed successfully with marketing MBAs for jobs and salaries. In the mid 1960s the department began to recognize and honor outstanding seniors and MA students. Many of these students subsequently rose to top management and other high positions in advertising agencies, media, corporations and non-profit organizations. Over the next few years hundreds of MSU advertising graduates took positions in Chicago, Detroit and New York, as well as elsewhere in the USA and several other countries. In the early 1970s an MA in Public Relations was established.
In the years 1969-1972, under the leadership of Dean Herbert Oyer, informal discussions among faculty members in the departments of advertising, television and radio, and journalism led to launching the Ph.D. program in mass media in 1973. Miracle headed the Ph.D. Program in that first year, and other advertising faculty members played key roles in guiding graduate student research and publication. This program had a great influence on the department’s research productivity. Meanwhile, faculty research and service also continued to include consulting for advertising and PR agencies, advertisers, media, and other organizations such as retailers, law firms, and manufacturers.
Under department chair Miracle — from May, 1974 until December, 1980 — the number of advertising majors grew to nearly 1000 students. As the department’s international reputation grew, nearly half of the MA students were coming from outside the USA. In the late 1960s and 1970s the department appointed a number of assistant professors in the tenure system, all of whom had recently completed Ph.D. programs. Two of these faculty members stayed on to become department chairmen themselves – Martin Block in 1981 and Bruce Vanden Bergh in 1985.
During the first two decades of its existence, MSU’s advertising department grew into a program with a solid balance of teaching, research and service. In addition to offering the first university course in international advertising in theUSA, the department also offered the university’s first course in consumer behavior. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the department shifted from a focus on advertising to a focus on an integrated mix of marketing communication activities. This development was made more tangible, perhaps, by the later contributions of one of its prominent MA and PhD graduates, Donald Schultz, who later became known as the father of integrated marketing communication (IMC) and authored or coauthored 13 books on IMC or related topics.
Block oversaw the on-going growth in student count, as well as faculty research productivity, during his four years as chair. Among his achievements was beginning an off-campus masters program in Metropolitan Detroit. Block went on to join former student Schultz at Chicago’s Northwestern University where he was instrumental in establishing the Integrated Marketing Communication program, later serving as chairman there.
University of Tennessee Ph.D. Bruce Vanden Bergh served as Department Chairman for the next dozen years—until 1997. During the mid 1980s student count exceeded 1200, as the MSU advertising department continued its tradition of leadership in teaching, research and service to the industry as well as service to national and international advertising associations. While the undergraduate program soared to new levels of prominence, the master’s program also grew, both on the main MSU campus, and through a significant expansion of the Detroit area off-campus MA.
Vanden Bergh, who has taught a variety of graduate classes over the past three decades at MSU, maintained his involvement in undergraduate education, even during his chairmanship, by teaching campaign classes. During the late 1980s, Vanden Bergh was able to dial back undergraduate enrollment slightly, allowing the faculty to pursue more research and service functions and to remain focused on the campaign-style classes and activities that were helping distinguish the department. It was during this period, for example, that the department renewed its participation in the American Advertising Federation’s (AAF) National Student Competition, which MSU had won in the campaign’s inaugural year (1971) and won again in 1981. Over the next 25 years, the MSU Advertising Department AAF teams won regional competitions more than half the time they participated in the annual competitions.
Block, Vanden Bergh and then college dean, Irwin Bettinghaus, sensing the emergence of public relations as a respected university discipline, began staffing up with seasoned PR pros like Ned Hubbel, Jim Gaudino, now dean at Kent State, and then-Governor Jim Blanchard’s press secretary and chief-of-staff, an MSU PhD in higher education administration, Richard Cole.
The department continued to be very active in the American Academy of Advertising (AAA) with VandenBergh elected president in 1995. MSU’s connection to American Academy of Advertising (AAA) was strengthened through Vanden Bergh’s leadership, but it neither started nor ended there. Crawford had served as AAA President in 1967-68, and Atkin served as AAAPresident in 1974-75. In 1979, MSU hosted the annual conference of theAAA. Miracle served as conference chairman and edited the conference proceedings and, in 1990, was elected a Fellow of the Academy. Advertising department chair Mary Alice Shaver held the AAA presidential post in 2002, and while in her MSU post she was also elected president of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).
In the 1990s, the department continued its steady march at or near the front of the growing parade of American advertising programs. MSU has consistently ranked in the top three programs in the country. Since the late 1990s Vanden Bergh and PR instructor Robert Kolt have generated national interest in an annual Super Bowl advertising judging event conducted by the department’s 28 member faculty.
Dating back to the mid 1960s, the advertising curriculum had been refocusing to include more theory, strategic thinking, and managerial and technical skills—as the program began to take on the managerial focus that continues to distinguish it today. And while its scholarly influence soared, the department continued to retain qualified professional faculty with deep advertising experience necessary to prepare students for entry level jobs.
In 1975 the department established a visiting advertising professional (VAP) program. Since then, usually two or three times a year, senior advertising professionals have been brought to MSU from across the USA and from several foreign countries, for one- to four- week seminars with selected students. Today the VAP Program is financed by a gift from Kensington and Alice Jones. A former advertising professional himself, Jones taught in theMSU advertising program for nearly 20 years.
The new knowledge generated by scholarly research out of MSU’s Advertising Department was shared not only through teaching at MSU, but also through scholarly publications that were read and used by graduate students and faculty members around the world. A long-standing department interest in summarizing scholarly advertising research for the advertising business has taken many forms over the past half century at MSU. Recently Vanden Bergh and current-chair Cole, influenced by an AAA panel convened by MSUassociate professor Hairong Li, created a bi-weekly, email service for MSUalumni and advertising professionals in agencies across the country. This service — Research Relevance — is dedicated to high-pointing key findings in the world of communication research that can help meet the day-to-day challenges facing the working advertising, PR and retailing professionals.
Although he retired in 1998, Miracle’s early international leadership continues today. In 2007 he launched InterSIP, an international student advertising internship program that he directs from MSU in conjunction with the International Advertising Association (IAA). The department was also first accredited by the IAA in 2002. This accreditation allows MSU to offer to qualified students the professional certification: The IAA Diploma in International Marketing Communication. Miracle also serves as IAA Program Director at MSU.
The Department has graduated large numbers of outstanding students with BA and MA degrees, many of whom have moved into the highest levels of management. Numerous graduates of the MSU Ph.D. program in mass media, now media and information systems, have distinguished themselves in advertising and public relations university careers worldwide. A separate department-operated Ph.D. program in retailing continues with its long-standing record of quality university placements.
In the mid-1990’s, a generous endowment established by the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation in honor of Ellis N. “Ned” Brandt, a public relations professional for Dow Chemical Company, created the first endowed professorship in the department and in the College of Communications Arts and Sciences. Charles Salmon, former head of the public relations sequence at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, was appointed as the first Brandt Professor. A few years later, the Gerstacker Foundation provided additional funding to convert the endowed professorship into an endowed chair, and to establish an annual Ellis N. Brandt Lecture in Public Relations at MSU.
MSU’s sixth department chair, Bonnie Reece served from 1997 through 2002, and then again in an “acting” capacity during 2005-06. Reece, a University of Michigan Ph.D. with a Harvard MBA, is known as a capable administrator who acted on her keen interest in continuing the departmental record of producing first rate graduates at all program levels. During her MSU career which spanned the period 1982 until her retirement in 2006, Reece mentored and directed the programs of numerous graduate students.
Reece turned the leadership duties of the department over to Mary Alice Shaver in 2002. While president of the American Academy of Advertising, Shaver, seventh chair in the department’s first half century, continued the development of departmental academic and research programs while also serving as editor of the Journal of Advertising Education, and guest editor of the Journal of Media Economics. In 2004, Shaver returned south for a leadership post at the University of Central Florida.
Reece returned to the chair position, this time on an acting basis, as she was needed to assist in the execution of merger of a program in merchandizing management and the Department of Advertising. The program in merchandizing management – now known as retailing — had been, and continues to be, staffed by several of the country’s best-known and highly productive scholars in the field. The result was the newly named Department of Advertising, Public Relations, and Retailing.
Salmon was appointed dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences – the oldest and one of the largest and most respected communication colleges in the world – in 2005 after having served as acting dean since late 2003. With a national search for the chair of this multi-disciplinary department underway and being led by past chairman Vanden Bergh, he and Dean Salmon successfully recruited former faculty member Richard Cole, who was in late 2005 serving as Chief Administrative Officer of the ten-hospital university Detroit Medical Center.
So, in 2006, Cole rejoined MSU as professor and chair of the newly established Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing. He and associate chair, retailing professor, Linda Good, immediately focused on bringing retailing, advertising and public relations together under a set of common initiatives designed to preserve the distinctions of the separate disciplines while capitalizing on the opportunities to establish a unique position in the world of commercial communications and shopper marketing education and research.
They also focused on implementing Dean Salmon’s initiative “to put the arts back into communications arts and sciences” by elevating “creative opportunities” for advertising students by hiring a highly regarded graphics artist and copywriter and forging a new teaching relationship with the university’s Art and Art History Department. Cole also restarted a college lecture series — that was endowed by late MSU alumnus John Aldinger. These bi-weekly lectures bring 14 top-level retailing, advertising and public relations leaders each year into a “Promotions Commons” lecture series. The sessions are regularly attended by as many as 200 of the department’s undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty members interested on hearing professional describe cutting edge strategy and tactics.
One of Cole’s early efforts was to obtain the Dean’s support to move an undergraduate specialization in Public Relations under the management of the department which heretofore had responsibility only for the PR MA degree. This program gives high-GPA students from advertising, retailing, journalism, communications and certain agricultural and residential college majors the opportunity to “specialize” in PR while pursuing other (mostly) communication-related majors.
Recently, the department has been represented on a university-wide task force that will bring several undergraduate programs to a new MSU off-campus program that has been licensed as America’s first public university program in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Among the graduate programs identified for initial offering in Dubai are MSU’s master’s level programs in advertising, public relations and retailing.
The department has been organizing the establishment of an initiative, headed by Professor Nora Rifon, dedicated to assembling the research interests of several advertising, public relations, and retailing faculty into a package of activities designed to stimulate further research into the social consequences of marketing to America’s children. The first wave of publications emanating from this effort was funded by the Kellogg Foundation.
The first half century of the Department of Advertising, Public Relations, and Retailing has been marked by constant growth, dramatic change, increasing internationalism and a dynamic definition of advertising, a principal instrument of marketing communications in a flattening world. The on-going innovations and diverse, multi-disciplinary faculty members found in today’s department combine with a strong history of success to predict that Michigan State University’s Department of Advertising, Public Relations, and Retailing has an ever- brightening future.
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