Nancy Hill Presents the Gordon Heffern Business Lecture at Mount Union College

October 13, 2008

Nancy HillEthics and advertising are not two words you would normally hear in the same sentence. But for one advertising executive, Nancy Hill, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), it is imperative to balance the two.

A 1979 Mount Union College graduate, Hill presented the Gordon Heffern Business Ethics Lecture on Tuesday, October 8 in Presser Recital Hall.  Hill explained to the audience that it is hard to be a woman in a business that has been historically dominated by men.

A man once told her that she’d never make it.  “From that day forward I made a promise to myself,” said Hill. “I would not sacrifice my personal beliefs, family and friends to get ahead in this business.”

Hill told the audience that here at the College she was your typical B- or C+ student.  On campus, she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega, the swim team and a swim coach and even went on the wilderness experience trip with Dr. Steve Kramer, professor of psychology.

“I got an excellent education here at Mount,” Hill added.  During her time in this tight-knit community, she learned many things from her peers who later became very influential.  “I did not realize that what I learned here (at Mount) would help shape my ideas and ideals.”

After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology, Hill thought that she would pursue a career in social work or education.  She never guessed that she would be go into advertising, but years later, she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I knew nothing about advertising, and less about the agency that was giving me a job,” noted Hill.  Her first job was in Baltimore where she was making 10,000 a year, nearly enough to pay her rent. “Was it exciting? Yes. Glamorous? Not so much at first.”

“As a child, I was the one who always colored outside of the lines,” she said. “I just jumped in and did it with both feet.”

Advertising is nothing like what you see on TV or in the movies.  “It’s not about ads, it was about selling points,” explained Hill.  “Real life advertising is developing creative ideas that will help fix business solutions. Yes, advertising is a business. But at its core, it’s a business of ideas.”

Hill believes that sometimes society isn’t even aware of advertising, because they have seen it so many times.  “Pay close attention to ads, because they can be magic,” said Hill.  “When it’s great, everyone behind the scenes are invisible.  But when it’s bad, it’s bad.”

When advertisements are not well put together, poor craftsmanship is revealed. And no one likes to be manipulated and lied to.

Hill noted that there is no better way to understand advertising than by looking at samples.  Throughout her presentation, she showed many examples of top-notch advertising work that can increase sales for a company and boost brand quality and awareness.

To conclude her presentation, Hill advised students to think outside of the box.  “College is a great time to try things inside and outside of the classroom,” she said.  “The time you put in here will shape the type of person you will become.  If I can inspire just one person to pursue a career in advertising and take that windy, but exhilarating experience then that would be great.”

Prior to joining the AAAA staff, Hill served as chief executive officer at Lowe New York, where she led an agency reorganization to more closely align services with the demands of clients in the 21st century.  She was executive vice president and managing director at BBDO New York, where she oversaw several of the agency’s largest accounts, including Motorola, HBO, Visa and AOL.

Her background is steeped in technology experience from clients such as Cisco, LucasArts, Microsoft, Sybase, Sony and Verizon.

Named one of the “75 Most Influential Women in Business” in both 2001 and 2002 by the San Francisco Business Times, Hill has served on the Board of Directors of the Miami Ad School, has had many teaching engagements and is actively involved in a community and educational program in Ecuador.

The Gordon Heffern Business Ethics Lecture was established by the late Mount Union College Trustee Gordon E. Heffern to encourage dialogue about the practical ways in which spirituality can transform the workplace.   Heffern, a graduate of the University of Virginia, served as chairman of the board of Society Corporation before retiring in 1987. 

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