Creative recruiters and creative directors from 37 ad agencies across the country met with Newhouse creative advertising senior students during the 2021 Syracuse University Newhouse Virtual Advertising Portfolio Review. Organized by professors Mel White and Kevin O’Neill, the event resulted in many students receiving internship and job offers.
Bruce Jacobson, creative director at VMLY&R, said the Newhouse students raise the bar each year with the level of their work and it can be hard to remember that they are still just students.
“The polish of both the concept and execution are so impressive,” Jacobson says. “It’s clear they’re also taught to think platform-first, which is the way it’s done in the real world. I’m happy I’m not 22 again, coming out of school and going up against them.”
Wieden+Kennedy, one of the top ad agencies in the world, offered Sam Luo ’21 a junior art director position in their Shanghai office. The renowned agency is best known for its award-winning and innovative Nike campaigns. Creative recruiter Mary Lamphier, who attended the portfolio review, helped Luo figure out that the agency was a good fit.
“I feel so grateful to start my career with an agency as legendary as Wieden+Kennedy,” Luo says. “Mary and I talked about what it’s like being an Asian in the ad world, and she broadened my mind with how the agency creates its culture and relevance in the current climate. She gave me constructive feedback on my work and told me that I would be an excellent fit at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai.”
Isabella Leon ’21 accepted a junior copywriter position at one of the most awarded ad agencies in the world, McCann in NYC.
“The portfolio review is your key to success post-grad,” Leon says. “It makes sure the right eyes see your work without the added work of convincing 40 recruiters to meet with you on your own. Preparing my portfolio, practicing my pitch and getting to know the amazing recruiters at the review was how I met my perfect agency and it’s how I got my job at McCann.”
Some impressive ad agencies hired Newhouse creatives in teams this year. 72andSunny’s NYC office offered art director Sierra Outcalt ’21 and copywriter Clare Coey ’21 a creative team residency. Copywriter Chloe Martin ’21 and art director Katie Volkomer ’22 accepted a team internship at McCann in NYC, which turned into a full-time position for Martin in July. In addition, art director Rachel Hayashi ’21 and copywriter Jessica Mastorides ’21 received a team internship offer from Saatchi & Saatchi.
Coey says being able to share her work and get feedback from knowledgeable professionals at the portfolio review was a valuable experience.
“Sierra and I got to meet two creatives from 72andSunny during the review,” Coey says. “They mentioned their residency program and forwarded our work and information along to the agency. Without the review or those two creatives, we wouldn’t have gotten the job we’re enjoying so much today.”
Copywriter Selin Akyurek ’20 accepted an internship with McKinney, her dream agency. Berlin Cameron in NYC offered Ben Lin ’21 an art director internship, and Alyssa Loffredo ’21 and Zan Buoy ’20 received copywriter internships from Doner in Detroit.
“I had two interviews with McKinney before the review and they were my top choice,” Akyurek says. “After talking with them at the review, I kept my fingers crossed and about a week later, I got the call.”
After the review, student portfolio links were sent to ad agencies unable to attend, generating even more internship offers. Amelia Lytle ’21 received an art director internship from Anomaly in NYC, and McGarryBowen’s Chicago office hired Alye Chaisson ’21 as a copywriter intern. Joe DeBlasio ’21 received an art director internship from P.volve’s in-house ad agency. Cerinn Park ’20 received an art director internship from EP+Co. in New York. After the review, many students continued to interview with and receive offers from agencies that attended the event.
McKinney’s recruiting sourcing specialist Melissa Shaheen says she was blown away by the work Newhouse students created.
“The portfolio review revealed students who are passionate, talented, well-prepared and ready to jump into the real world of advertising,” Shaheen says. “These are the kind of students who will make an impact on the world.”
Matthew Low ’15, associate creative director at BBDO New York, is proud of how the department has evolved since he graduated. He says the focus on big ideas and craft helps make it one of the best advertising programs in the country.
“I was blown away by how impressive some of the student portfolios were,” Low says. “In addition to creating great work, everyone was able to present over Zoom in a super clear and articulate way.”
White says it was wonderful to hear praise for Newhouse’s creative advertising students from such notable agencies.
“Our many creatives and creative teams who are female and people of color hired at top ad agencies will help bring more diversity to ad agency creative departments,” she says. “And with this incredible start in the industry, down the road, they could make the creative leadership more diverse, too. A big need in the industry.”
White started the Annual Portfolio Review in 2017 at SU’s Fisher Center in NYC and it has become a fixture for graduating students at Newhouse. The in-person event is often limited to NYC agencies, but this year’s and last year’s all-virtual event allowed ad agencies from many cities all over the country to attend.
Some of the other agencies represented by advertising professionals at this year’s portfolio review included BBDO, Big Spaceship, The Community, DAVID, Digitas, Droga5, Grey, Highdive, Laundry Service, Leo Burnett, Mekanism, Mother, MullenLowe, TBWA\Chiat\Day, Venables Bell and Partners, and VMLY&R.
O’Neill appreciates the time and energy the agencies put into their involvement with the event.
“Their presence proved what we continually preach to our students—that the advertising business is filled with generous and welcoming people,” he says. “The experience they provided for our students during the review is an important part of their education.”
Over the last few semesters, White and O’Neill taught these creative advertising students how to create compelling and innovative ad campaigns with big ideas across many mediums in their Portfolio I, II and III courses. The most breakthrough campaigns made it onto their portfolio websites for the review.
Derek Rosen ’21, copywriter, appreciates the hard work that went into organizing the portfolio review and says he would not have been able to make the same connections without it.
“The fact that they put in all the effort to schedule something like this is fantastic,” Rosen says. “It’s not easy to get these agencies on the phone. The fact I sat down with them one-on-one on Zoom was an amazing opportunity.”
The student team that helped White and O’Neill organize the portfolio review was made up of Megan Hu G’21 and juniors Allison Scherger, Lynn Seah and Ashley Wachtfogel. The support team began meeting in early January before classes began and had a goal to make the online experience as close to the in-person NYC experience as possible. After researching different platforms, Zoom’s capability to pre-assign breakout rooms for the ad agencies while also allowing students to choose breakout rooms to join gave the students and student teams one-on-one time with the agency representatives and nearly replicated the in-person experience.
Next year, White says they are hoping to make the portfolio review both in-person and online. This will give the best of both worlds of meeting in-person as well as meeting with more ad agencies across the country.
Samantha Savery G’21 is a graduate of the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications program at the Newhouse School.