The Ad Society at DePaul: Covid killed it, now it’s the students who are rebuilding it

Nested on the highest floor of DePaul’s Arts and Letters Hall, a pack of students flock to room 415 to judge their favorite ads in this year’s Super Bowl. 

For them, the tales of love, laughter and a mass marketed appeal that can last anywhere between 30 to 60 seconds at a time is the real crowd pleaser. As one member sketches a 16 slotted bracket onto an empty whiteboard, another cues up Forever — a commercial from the pet food company The Farmer’s Dog. Suddenly, the room goes quiet and everyone points their eyes toward the screen. Art is in motion and they all know how to respect it.

This group — The Ad Society — brings together students who share a passion for great advertising and communication solutions. Having been placed on a hiatus for nearly two years by the COVID-19 pandemic, the society now seeks to reclaim its standing as a beacon for DePaul’s creative student body. 

While other groups on campus have had decades worth of reputation to rely on — whether that be connections with past alumni or an established following — The Ad Society is forced to operate on the sole strength of its 15 members.

A legacy lost in the wake of a pandemic, few remember what the group resembled in years past. Those that do emphasized Chicago’s dense media landscape and the freedom it offers to the next generation of marketing professionals.

Former professor and faculty advisor to The Ad Society from 2011 up to the start of the pandemic, Ken Krimstein views the DePaul climate as an ideal pairing between youthful creatives and the types of people they aspire to become.

“You have a perfect storm,” Krimstein said. “You have professionals that want to help students and students that want to learn from professionals.”

To establish new connections amongst the student body, The Ad Society has organized agency visits, marketing critiques and collaborations with fellow DePaul clubs such as the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA.) Despite a disconnect in followers of the group from past to present, the end goal has yet to change. 

“We redefined the mission of The Ad Society into two things,” Krimstein said. “One was a way for people who aren’t into public relations or advertising to learn about the field. The other thing is that we wanted to be the student industry face of the ad program.”

Offered a book contract soon after the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020, Krimstein moved on from his role as an educator, passing the reins of advisor off to fellow advertising expert and professor at DePaul, Marshall Goldman. 

Hoping to revamp the society, Goldman reached out to the students in his classroom to start the rebuilding process. Over time, more minds took interest and the group started to expand.

Junior and President of the Ad Society Lauren Rickenbrode joined at the beginning of fall quarter and has since managed the growth of an organization building from the base up. Finding a middle ground between an older student demographic and the need to add new faces to the program seems to be the biggest struggle.

“No one wants it to be just another class,” Rickenbrode said. “I definitely am trying to balance it where I can, having stuff for underclassmen who are just getting into advertising or want to learn more about the industry but also gearing it towards upperclassmen who are looking for internships and want to apply for jobs.”

Current upperclassmen who were voided the opportunity to grow their portfolios due to the pandemic  now look towards the society as a lifeline. To them, these agency visits are not just networking opportunities but potential jobs following graduation.

Junior Mary Peterson, advertising student and member of the society, offered her perspective of the agency model and how these visitations have further influenced her desire to pursue a career in the field.

“I think the great thing about agencies is that it’s a team effort,” Peterson said. “In advertising, you have your accounts team that does the research, you have your creative team, you have the people working on the script, you have a production team, and then the people working on the art. Even if you get burnt out, you still have someone to bounce off of.”

Welcoming all majors and grade levels, meetings are typically held every Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Arts and Letter Hall. Students can also check out weekly events, a reserved table at the spring quarter involvement fair and “The Clean Getaway Podcast” to see what steps The Ad Society is taking to grow its culture.

“With creative people, the reason you have them is for their individuality,” Krimstein said. “That’s why this is the place.”