Learning global strategic communication in China
For the first time ever, graduate students had the opportunity to take a two week immersive summer course at Loyola’s Beijing Center as part of the Global Strategic Communication master’s program.
The course, International Advertising, included visits to top advertising agencies, a weekend excursion to Shanghai and guest lecturers from world-class universities.
Despite her Ph.D. in Mass Communications, body of published work and 18 years of experience in advertising, the journey has left Dr. Pamela Morris struggling to find words that can convey just how transformative it was to be in what she describes as “the pulse of the world.”
“Asia right now is where the action is," Morris said. Everything is so energetic…Going there was life changing—we got totally immersed in the culture—and it changes you; you transform.”
Part of understanding advertising, according to Morris, is understanding culture. And Chinese culture is very complex.
“There is a rising economy and a rising middle class that wants Western consumer goods. But how can you have a commercial society under communism?” Morris said.
Analyzing such contradictions within the culture allowed students insight into what it takes to negotiate contracts in a place that holds intricate values and is wildly different from the United States.
Since China is the second largest economy in the world, having this perspective is a huge advantage in the communication industry because business is becoming increasingly international. With the Chinese market becoming more and more mature, it will inevitably continue to be a force in the global economy, according to Morris.
To gage just how many Western products are being introduced in China, students strolled through chaotic department stores and shopping centers alongside branding specialists who talked about the reasons why certain retailers are choosing to set up shop in China and the strategies that make them successful.
Lessons in technology were also key to understanding the Chinese market. Chinese advertisers are taking advantage of social media in a particularly unique way because they have more business-oriented social applications rather than the commonly used platforms of the United States such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that are geared toward entertainment.
Another highlight of the two week learning journey was the challenging climb up the Great Wall. The experience, while intrinsically rewarding, was intended to help students understand China’s history and apply it to how advertising works in the country.
But traveling to China presented students with non-academic challenges as well.
Because China is a mostly homogenous country, tourists of non-Asian decent may stand out.
“It’s as if you become a celebrity overnight. It can be overwhelming but accepting that you are different and people will stare can sometimes be fun too,” said student Shen Hrobowski.
Students also cited culture shock, pollution, jet lag, lack of personal space, and internet firewalls as aspects of the trip that took some getting used to.
“The experience in China was both amazing and highly challenging. Dr. Morris is a brilliant professor who always made us feel comfortable, even though most of us were definitely out of our element,” Klimer said.
And Morris upholds a similar admiration for the eight graduate students she led through China.
“We got very close,” she said. “I learned so much from them. They opened my world. I really missed them for days and weeks after that…I would recommend any student to do this [course]. It goes beyond advertising and branding.”
International Advertising will be offered again to graduate students in summer 2017.