James Hodgins, an advertising instructor and director of the CoMC Think Tank and Outpost Social Media Lab, partnered with GriffinWink Advertising during the Spring 2021 semester to facilitate a unique opportunity for students in Advertising Design and Layout (ADV 3361) that extended beyond the classroom.
GriffinWink Advertising, a full-service traditional and digital agency based in Lubbock, shared their industry expertise while collaborating with Hodgins's students on re-branding the Amarillo-based grocery store Market 33. Aided by Brian Wink, president of GriffinWink, and Rusty Griffin, agency partner and chief creative officer, Hodgins established the partnership using the Think Tank as the creative hub for the collaboration.
“I'm always looking for ways to give students real-world opportunities and experience,” says Hodgins, a former copywriter and social media director at The Price Group, a Lubbock-based advertising agency, “especially outside the classroom and with me being the director of the Think Tank and Outpost Lab. I'm looking for ways to collaborate or partner with local agencies.”
GriffinWink Advertising was at the top of Hodgins's list of potential collaborators. He believed the agency's distinct approach to digital advertising would enable students to gain industry expertise.
“GriffinWink is well known for being one of the top digital agencies in our local area,” Hodgins says. “I thought they'd be a great partner to work with because they bring in a blend of traditional and digital advertising. Considering everything going on, I thought it'd be best for at least a little bit of this to be in person.”
The collaboration saw Hodgins assembling a team of motivated students to help re-brand one of GriffinWink's clients, Market 33. The process involved students developing creative ways to execute broader brand strategies for the client, an experience Hodgins hoped would directly apply advertising and branding concepts for students in the course.
“One of the biggest benefits is that you get to expand your knowledge and experience,” Hodgins says. “With a local agency like GriffinWink, you get to dabble in a little bit of everything. Looking back at The Price Group, I wasn't just a copywriter. I helped with designs and met with clients, so you're able to do a lot more.”
Although not limited to creating advertisements and media plans, students in the collaboration received hands-on experience working with the client and staff at GriffinWink. Wink and Griffin frequently met students during weekly meetings, imparting crucial career advice to the students. Students worked on a research analysis in which they turned their insights into creative executions. A final pitch to Wink and Griffin encapsulated the collaboration at the end.
“You kind of take the entire process and condense it down week to week,” Hodgins says. “It is for the students to add to their résumé and experience. However, it's to also give them a taste of what they might want to do professionally after school.”
Madi Paxton, a senior advertising major and minor in creative media industries from Carlsbad, New Mexico, believes the experience was as close to real-world problem-solving as it could get for a college course. She hopes to use her time in the Think Tank to better her design work through collaborative feedback from her peers.
“I love it because it prepares you for how real life is going to be,” Paxton says. “We're always going to be working together as a team, so it's better to practice as much as you can. Maybe your ideas aren't the best, but you can always improve your work with the help of others.”
Thyra Funderburk, a senior advertising major with a minor in psychology from Austin, Texas, stresses the importance of preparing for a post-graduation world. Openly sharing her ideas during the collaboration helped build her professional confidence.
“I hate being unprepared,” Funderburk says. “I want to be involved as much as possible because I don't want to be drowning when I graduate. I find myself talking more, too, even if my ideas are not always the best. It's good to have that criticism because we're all so different, so we bring something new to the table.”
Ugonna Nwaoba, a junior dual major in advertising and public relations, mirrors much of the same values found within her peers. Nwaoba views advertising as an art form and sought to sharpen her artistic skills through the constructive feedback offered during the weekly meetings.
“I feel like I understand theory and research, but practical learning is everything for advertisers,” Nwaoba says. “Yes, you sit in a classroom to learn the concepts, but it is a completely different world from practice. If I'm rejected a thousand times before entering the field, then I can truly hone my skills.”
Rejection is the driving energy for Hodgins's team, and the weekly meetings provided a safe, constructive space where all ideas were welcomed. Hodgins encouraged his team to share their insights and ideas despite their preconceived notions. He regularly stated that there are no bad ideas, and all were invited to the meetings.
“We all have to be bad at something before we can be good at something,” Hodgins says. “Compared to a student's first idea, you can see the growth and effort behind their work as we progress. To me, that's the best part because you teach them that anyone can be creative. There are many ways to be creative other than drawing or singing.”
Collaborations like those with GriffinWink Advertising allow Hodgins to develop a personal connection with his students. He takes the opportunity to share his industry experience, as well as help students create portfolio-worthy projects. To Hodgins, fostering student growth and remaining in touch with them is the best part of his teaching career.
“Out of everyone at Tech, no one has a better job than me,” Hodgins says. “I get to touch these creative, skills-based projects. Students get to receive tangible evidence of something they made and can be proud of. I love what I do because I get to see their growth in real-time.”
His small eight-student team is grateful for the opportunity presented to them and understands the significance of Hodgins' service to the students. Sharing the same passion for advertising, it's clear why students wish to remain in contact.
“Mentor is a great word to describe Hodgins,” Nwaoba says. “He's always willing to go the extra mile for us, and it shows. He's kindhearted, and you can tell he genuinely wants his student to succeed. He's the first person I go to for advice because I know it's out of the goodness of his heart.”
Hodgins's goal is to create multiple transformative experiences for his students to explore outside the classroom. Implementing the GriffinWink Advertising collaboration and one-day advertising campaigns are some of the projects meant to assist students who can't sacrifice months of time on a project. Hodgins argues, however, that all it takes is effort to begin in the advertising field.
“Don't be told you have to do something before you want to start doing it,” Hodgins says. “If you're into writing or designing, then just start. You can take any aspect and ask yourself what you'd do differently. If you can just foster creativity in your life, you'd be surprised how creative you can be.”