Cortney and I sat at the front of a lively university classroom in Hanoi. Behind us was the hammer and sickle and a statue of Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Mihn.) In front sat a group of sixty university students. Most couldn’t understand a word we said. Others spoke remarkable English from endless hours of Hollywood cinema. All of them were waiting for us to say something brilliant.
We are in Vietnam, a communist country of ninety million people who make an average of three US dollars a day. We are preparing to lecture these students, not about development, education, or medicine… but interactive advertising. Sort of an strange notion when you consider that a lot of the country scarcely has internet connection.
We kept asking the question: “Does Vietnam really need people like us?” Nerdy designers here to talk about taglines and social networks. Actually, yes.
Look beyond all the ubiquitous cosmetics commercials and happy meal jingles and you can see the awesome power of persuasion in both developed and developing countries. Advertising has urged people to stop littering, vote for progress, and eradicate diseases. It can publicize helpful services and give much needed attention to home grown products and talent. Maybe this is what Vietnam has been waiting for. Maybe selling a few more razors is a good thing for a country that, until recently, has been in a perpetual state of war for the last two hundred years.
A history of propaganda aside, the study of communication and advertising is very new in Vietnam. This class is part of the first official advertising college in the country. We were introduced to two of the students through a former co-worker, Steve Knight, a copywriter at T3. He had, by chance, met the students a year earlier on a trip to Vietnam. Now we stood in front of the class, projector controls in hand, explaining how an American Ad agency works, how to harness social media, and how to turn a spark of an idea into something that works.
Through interpretation and a lot of gesturing, we lectured about our careers for a little over an hour. It was early in the morning, but the students were attentive, engaged, and asked some extremely astute follow up questions. “What do you like most about advertising?” “What’s the hardest part of the job?” and most importantly, “How do we get more experience?”
That last question was hardest to answer. Several of the students have a very good grip on the English language and are extremely smart. They have an extensive curriculum where they are engaged in real world projects like TV campaigns and print collateral. They even have several professors with overseas experience. BUT, they desperately need international exposure to advertising, communication, and PR. Internships or studies abroad will help the students and the Ad industry in Vietnam immensely.
And this is where you come in. To all our friends in the field and their colleagues (and Linkdin connections, etc.), please pass this post around to see what opportunities are available for these students. The professors in Hanoi are eager to work with Universities and businesses abroad.
The students would be a great addition to any environment. They bring an alternate approach to advertising and are open to all possibilities. When dealing with an industry that is always looking for a different way of thinking, it’s a refreshing view to have. Also, these kids ride their motos FEARLESSLY through the streets of Hanoi so navigating clients and board room politics should be a breeze.
If anybody has interest in the school, lecturing in Hanoi, or most importantly, sponsoring a student for an internship or university program, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can put you in touch with the professors at the college and send any other pertinent details.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the students and faculty of the Academy of Journalism and Communication in Hanoi. They showed us around the town and gave us the inside tour of the city. We practically had our own scooter posse at our disposal. This was not a planned part of our SE Asia trip, but it turned into one of the most rewarding experiences thus far.
Thanks in advance and watch out for brilliant ideas and minds coming from Vietnam.