If I Couldn’t be in Advertising

I’m applying for a media fellowship in New York and the application process involves several essays. The most challenging one thus far was about what career I would pursue if a career in media wasn’t an option. What I ended up with is a decent summary of why I want to be in advertising, as well as an interesting exploration into some of my philosophy and ideals. Let me know what you think, if you agree or disagree, recommend something for me to read.

Advertising was my gateway to media at large, the flashy billboards and print campaigns got me thinking about who decides what to print and who needed to see it. I quickly realized that advertising wields immense power to shape opinion and culture. My education focused heavily on understanding culture, and understanding why that culture exists. History appealed to me in middle school—tracing the lines of cultural influence helped me to make sense of the world as it is now.

As I examined culture, I realized that media played a huge part in shaping and solidifying it. Presenting new ideas to a wider audience, reflecting the ideas of the majority, outright lies told for the purpose of control, wherever media was used (and for whatever purpose) it always has an impact on the culture in some way or another.

Going back through history, you can see the influence of media innovations on the culture. The social web, the internet, phone, telegraph, international correspondence, and especially the printing press all facilitated huge cultural shifts. But before the printing press, I noticed that architecture was the chief guardian of culture.

While I have always admired his architecture from an aesthetic perspective, reading the essays of Frank Lloyd Wright caused me to realize just how much I have in common with his philosophy. In The Art and Craft of the Machine, Wright emphasizes how architecture was the primary mass media in the days before mass printing was possible. Wright goes on to describe how the explosion of the press led to a decline of architecture during the Renaissance, an important point stuck with me: architecture was the original mass media.

From cave paintings to inscriptions of the legal code, buildings were historically used to relay written (or at least graphic) information. Even today, our buildings share a symbiotic and co-influential relationship with the way we live. Our houses and offices not only reflect how we live now, but they also shape the ways in which we live in the future. Architecture can promote collaborative creativity or encourage solitary meditation.

While my first choice is still media—the nature of the work appeals to me on many levels and I have invested a significant amount of time and energy into understanding it—I find myself considering the part that architecture plays in cultural influence. The most basic reason for my passion for media is a passion for inspiring others and promoting positive change. Media seems to be the area in which my skills, interests, and passions overlap the most, and the more specific field of advertising only increases that overlap. However, if the areas of media were for some reason not an option, I would most certainly pursue a career in architecture as it still provides me with a creative, arresting outlet for my core passion—inspiring others to affect positive cultural change.

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