Student Spotlight: Joshua Oliver
Written by Laura Gamo, MS Student in the School of Advertising & Public Relations
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and about your experience this summer.
I am a senior here at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, originally from Memphis, TN. I am majoring in Advertising with a double minor in Business Administration and Psychology. I hold various leadership positions across campus, and at the core of those organizations, I have an opportunity to advocate for and create inclusive environments for conversations about difference and diversity. Whether that is facilitating workshops as a Diversity Educator or planning events for the Black Student Union, I can utilize my passion for diversity and inclusion to serve these organizations and the surrounding community.
I saw the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, or MAIP, as an opportunity to continue this work, specifically within the ad industry. From the second I learned more about advertising, early in my college career, I fell in love with this industry. When I was selected as a MAIP 2017 Fellow, I was honored and ready for the challenge. I had the privilege of working for TBWA\WorldHealth where I worked as an account manager, helping to launch a new pharmaceutical biosimilar injectable. I did not have much of a background in healthcare, but I did have a deep understanding of how to bring people together. I made sure to channel my passion for inclusive collaboration to learn the full scope of an account manager’s function in the agency setting and ideate around ways to communicate patient’s experiences to health care professionals.
Q: What was the highlight of your experience this summer?
The highlight of my summer experience was definitely all of the people I met and the new relationships I made. Being a part of a network of people who value representation and diversity and are pushing the boundaries around the normal makeup of the industry is inspiring! I was empowered to be bold and daring, to be completely myself, when I saw people in the same career and on the same path doing just that! With such courageous examples to follow, I could focus on the work, make plans for launching my career, and show how dedicated I am to advertising as a discipline, a career, and a personal passion of mine.
Q: What agency, workshop or other professional experience stood out to you?
The 2017 MAIP Fellows and I had the opportunity to sit through a panel discussion at R/GA where I heard Vice President of Content and Partnerships Jessica Greenwood share about how she fell into Strategy as a discipline, and talked about what makes good strategy. I cannot recall verbatim what she said; however, Jess alluded to the fact that a strategist’s role is to find human truths that represent the people we want to reach in order to tell their story.
Listening to her speak, gave me a greater sense of purpose to strive to guide and elevate the flow of humanity in everything I do and in every project or campaign I am a part of. When Jess spoke about this truth-telling and ability to take human experiences about brands and products and tell those stories, I saw my purpose come alive in her words. That moment reiterated a personal truth— that advertising was meant for me.
Q: What first made you interested in advertising?
When I was leaving high school and headed for college, I did not know what I wanted to do. I told a teacher who was trying to help me decide on a major that the only thing I liked about school was presenting things. So she encouraged me to take classes in marketing, but when I did, I hated it. I went back to her, hoping she would have some new advice and she encouraged me to major in advertising when I got to college. So, I did, and on the first day of Advertising Principles with Dr. Eric Haley, he described the roles and positions that an advertising agency is comprised of. In that moment, I saw everything I had ever wanted to be growing up being used in an ad agency, and after getting chills and tearing up a bit, I left class that day knowing I had just found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!
Q: What was the biggest challenge you had to conquer that helped shape your path?
The biggest challenge I have conquered so far is showing up to spaces and being completely present and certain in my identity, skill, and potential. I have faced so much adversity along the way, but the biggest challenge is when the shame, worry, or concern from that adversity blocks you from being present and grabbing a hold of your dreams. When I put those things to rest and truly embraced my identity, skills, and potential I was able to walk with my head high and face challenges like moving to NYC for two months and offering ideas during brainstorming sessions at my agency, or pitching in front of agency executives.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the best and the worst thing about our industry?
The best thing about the advertising industry to me is the privilege to carry human truth in our hands, hearts, decisions, strategy, and creative executions. And having the privilege to do all of this on behalf of clients who are coming up with innovative things that embrace, elevate and attach to a person’s identity daily. The worst part about our industry is that we often rush the process of uncovering, developing and using these human truths to meet deadlines or launch accounts or win new business. This often leads to getting the story wrong and dropping the ball when we attempt to share the experiences of our consumers. More diversity in the industry, in agencies, in brainstorming rooms, and in front of clients is one important way to right the wrongs of the ad industry.
Q: Do you have any plans on returning to New York soon?
I do! I actually just came back from an all-expense-paid trip to New York City a few weeks ago. Airbnb and Vice recently partnered to host custom-made tour experiences in different locations around the world. The two companies chose 100 participants to on an adventure, and I was one of 30 people chosen to take a deep dive into the Big Apple and learn about the history of vogue in Harlem! The tour was led by dancer, visual artist, advocate for people living with HIV, and now friend, Kia LaBeijad from the House of LaBeija. Kia volunteered her time to lead a historic walking tour through Harlem, a voguing master class, and a night on the town. I left this experience reenergized, compelled and inspired to be intentional about showing up to spaces, embracing my full identity, walking in my truth, and hopefully inspiring others to do the same thing. I cannot wait to go back!
I plan on going on the New York trip with the School, led by Dr. Haley, in January and again this summer if I am chosen to be a MAIP 2018 Fellow (fingers crossed). NYC has always been a place I have had my eyes set on, so honestly, I feel that whenever I am not there I am planning on returning!