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Understanding People
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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There is nothing like connecting with a group of young minds.

We have the pleasure and opportunity to spend a week out of every year as a company advisor for Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week. The company advisor acts as a business connection for 18 rising high school juniors and seniors during a week that consists of talks from business executives, a college-level business simulation, an ethics case study, and other team-related activities. The week ends with a series of presentations that the teams worked on throughout the week that will display their overall comprehension of free enterprise, a business simulation, and marketing and advertising.

In AdLand, we feel it is sometimes overlooked that if we are writing messages to connect with these people, we should make it a duty to connect with them ourselves. The bright young men and women that flock to this program are as diverse as they are talented. These kids have both grown up too fast and are naive about the world and the world of business. 

AdLand talks about being the voice of business, or the "life of trade" as former President Coolidge once said. Yet do we as practitioners make an effort to immerse ourselves in places where we get to mingle with the minds who are not only the recipients of the message, but also the ones who will be joining our ranks?

Not all of us are.

Throughout our experience in this program, is it obvious that there is a disconnect between the business world and the "real" world. The young adults we interacted with bombarded the speakers with questions about getting ahead, the right things to say during an interview, what they did to get to where they are, and all of that stuff. Many of the executives and successful people on the stage talked more about their failures helping them succeed than achieving their goals. Others talked about their personal ethics rather than following a college roadmap.

Is that the business snapshot everyone sees? Unfortunately not.

Advertising, too, is misunderstood by these young ones. One such person asked about "subliminal messaging" and if it is truly illegal, or just looked down upon as people continue to do it.

"As people continue to do it." Ouch.

Advertising, as clear-cut as we think it to be, really isn't. It is imperative that we start understanding the people we serve. Not only should we do it to help us be better at what AdLand provides, but in order to help garner respect for free enterprise and to attract the talent and young creative minds the industry thrives on.

Advertising gives people the knowledge to improve their lives. Let's commit to that on all levels.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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