Advertising and Branding in Asia: 3 Key Takeaways From Unforgettable Study Abroad

By Arturo Echevarria

What do you get when you take an international campaign competition, agency visits to some of the top advertising/PR firms in the world and an adventure in Asia? The greatest study abroad experience ever!

Last month, I was fortunate enough to be one of 10 students that attended DePaul’s Advertising and Branding study abroad class in Taiwan and Japan. Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of exploring Asia so this mixed with my affinity for all things PRAD made this an incredible experience for me. While I learned a ton of information (including how to say “hi” and “thank you” in Chinese and Japanese which basically got me through the ENTIRE trip), here are some of the three best takeaways.

1. Teamwork makes the dream work

One of the components of the study abroad class was an advertising campaign competition. Four universities throughout the world – DePaul and RMU from Chicago, ITECH from Germany and MCUT from Taiwan – formed six groups to help a local Taiwanese coffee shop, RoastTing Coffee, improve their company’s brand recognition utilizing tech, graphic design and advertising expertise. While obstacles occurred, most notably cultural differences and in some cases a language barrier, through utilizing everyone’s strengths and ensuring everyone was engaging in the team we were able to present incredible ideas to the client. As a result of my team’s hard work and dedication, we were awarded first place in the competition overall which goes to show that a great group can overcome any obstacle.

2. Great brands tell great stories

Throughout the entire trip, we were lucky enough to visit some of the best PRAD agencies in the world. Each agency provided incredible insights on the PRAD industry, but one insight that stuck out to me the most was that great brands tell great stories. We are in the business of storytelling. In order for your brand/product to be successful, you have to have something to say that will be impactful for the consumer. A good ad can help a consumer consider a product, but a great ad with even greater storytelling can make someone feel something toward a brand that will stick with the consumer. Take, for instance, this ad for an investment banking firm in Taiwan. Sounds like it would be boring, right? The ad had rarely anything to do with investment banking, but because of how powerful the story was, people in Taiwan appreciated this and the investment bank was perceived in an immensely good light and was considered an immensely successful campaign for Dentsu.

3. Globalization is key

While walking the streets of both Taipei and Tokyo, I was inundated with countless advertisements – none of which I could read. One of the best things I learned to help with this problem, however, was seeing ads through the lens of globalization. In short, globalization is the ability to apply universal themes and topics and interpret them for international audiences. For instance, I saw a beauty ad in Taipei and I knew it was a beauty ad because of already established tropes (ie. the model was wearing make-up and looked conventionally beautiful). By utilizing globalization, the beauty company that was attempting to reach their normal Taiwanese consumer also ended up intriguing me in the process – thus expanding their brand’s range to extend to outside target audiences.

Overall, this study abroad opportunity was an absolute dream for me as I roamed both Taiwan and Japan, ate my weight in bubble tea, and became exposed to the PRAD industry abroad. I’d love to thank the program leaders, Kelly Chu and Maria DeMoya, for providing such an incredible opportunity and, if you’re at DePaul, would HIGHLY recommend you take this class next summer! Or if you go to another school, check out the study abroad program.

Arturo Echevarria is a recent graduate of DePaul University with a BA in Public Relations and Advertising aspiring to work in the entertainment PR industry.

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