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January 23, 2008
Why do so Few MBA’s go into Advertising?

I received my MBA a decade after receiving my undergraduate degree. I earned an MBA at Mercer University in Atlanta while working full-time at The HoneyBaked Ham Company. Doing this is not for the weak at heart. It was like working a part-time job on top of my overly full-time job.

Did I need an MBA? Well, no, not really. I was doing well in my career.

I often have people ask me if the MBA was necessary to be successful in marketing or advertising. My answer is always — it depends on what your goals are.

Let me explain.

Most advertising agencies or mid-size to small companies do not require that an entry-level marketing candidate have an MBA. The reason is that the starting salary is often much lower than other disciplines. Sometimes 50 percent less than other disciplines pay.

In the marketing world, experience and hard work are the job requirement. Entry-level employees must learn the ropes by getting in there and learning from more seasoned executives. It is critical in marketing to start at the bottom and work your way up. Time and experience are the only way to do this.

MBA’s learn a lot about all functional areas including economics, marketing and finance. They learn quickly that the starting pay in advertising/marketing is not a good return on investment for their expensive MBA. There are a few good paying jobs in blue chip firms that require an MBA, but those jobs are few and far between.

Marketing and advertising are the most creative of any discipline. I am absolutely passionate about marketing and work hard everyday to be at the top of my game. It is the only function that is responsible for driving sales. It requires art and science. The right and left-brain. If you are a type A personality and live on Adrenalin, there is no better career than marketing/advertising.

That said, my MBA has meant nothing and everything for me. It meant nothing in that it I did not get a promotion or raise as a direct result of receiving the MBA. However, what I did gain is a more global insight to the role of marketing and advertising and how it impacts other functions and the organization. I became a stronger voice at the table and was more confident in vocalizing my point of view. I was quickly promoted and received a raise because of the contributions I was making.

As a result of the MBA, I was asked to be an adjunct professor at Mercer University. I have also been a guest speaker at numerous colleges and civic organizations. I recently was promoted to Chief Marketing Officer at The HoneyBaked Ham Company and asked to take on more of a General Management role for a new business venture.

So, when asked, is an MBA necessary. Again, it depends. If you are in Marketing/Advertising for the long-haul and want a great career, I think an MBA will round out the business experience. It will also give credibility too. It is not a good return on investment in the short-term. It will definitely pay out in the end. And, marketers are always looking to prove their return on investment. So, because of all that the MBA has meant everything to me. And I would emphatically recommend it.

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Jo Ann Herold has more than 20 years marketing and franchise experience. She is an Adjunct Professor at Weselyn University, and an Adjunct Professor at Mercer University where she teaches Marketing, Marketing Promotions and Executive MBA Marketing. Jo Ann has been with HoneyBaked Ham since 1993. She was awarded a Silver Effie for advertising effectiveness and was a finalist for the Catalog of the Year award by Catalog Age.

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