Advertising company president and CEO speaks to students on leading positive change

Aisling Ayers

Authenticity in advertising and breaking from societal conventions are among the values used by an award-winning advertising agency, the company president and CEO told hundreds of students Thursday.

Troy Ruhanen presented his business’ three-step formula in a talk with communications students Thursday at the Belo Center for New Media. The advertising agency, TBWA, partners with clients such as Apple, Adidas and Nissan, he said. 

Ruhanen said each marketing campaign they create incorporates ideas of convention, vision and disruption as a part of the company’s branding. As a part of the company’s unconventional mindset, Ruhanen said they analyze culture and figure out ways to avoid using trends in their work.

“Our competition is everything in culture — that’s what we’re up against,” Ruhanen said. “That’s what you have to break through.”

Ruhanen said when a company authentically cares about its values, it changes from a “good to a great company.” Under TBWA’s guidance, he said Apple began a campaign which emphasized their privacy policies, Adidas introduced a new brand of shoes inspired by Billie Jean King and Nissan created the campaign #SheDrives, which encouraged Saudi Arabian women to learn how to drive.

“All of those brands broke the conventions and took a step that no one was willing to take,” Ruhanen said. “Doing good can do good for business. Everybody wins.”

Ruhanen said students should “disrupt the culture” with their ideas and be creative during job interviews.

“Treat your interview process with a lot of rigor and research,” Ruhanen said. “You’ve got to put on a show. You need to use creativity to separate yourself.”

Advertising junior MinJi Joo was the first in line after the presentation to ask Ruhanen about pushing the limits of the industry. Joo said she agrees with Ruhanen’s message.

“Being a true advertiser means being empathetic,” Joo said. “This is the new era of authenticity, and advertising should be about being truly selfless.”

After the talk, a panel of faulty from the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations, including advertising school director JoAnn Sciarrino, questioned Ruhanen on company honesty and how to lead with integrity.

“I hope that the biggest thing that the students take away from the presentation is for each of them to find their voice and that everyone counts,” Sciarrino said. “There is a way to go against the status quo that is authentic to yourself.”