It is always comforting to hear that a significant majority of advertising agency presidents believe that undergraduate advertising training is useful (e.g., Marquez, 1980). It is equally discomforting to encounter study after study reporting the disenchantment of advertising agency employers with the educational backgrounds of entry-level job candidates (e.g., Gifford and Magard, 1975; Rotzoll and Barban, 1984; Rotfeld, 1985; Deckinger et al., 1989).
Whatever agency employer expectations or beliefs, however, a recent census of entry-level employment reported only 15 percent had majored in advertising (Donnelly, 1994) but without reporting what proportion of applicants had had such an education.
One problem in developing a consistent and substantial research foundation, however, is the definition the researchers give to the applicant's educational background. For example, several studies are limited to entry-level applicants who had majored in advertising (e.g., Guadino, 1988; Hunt, Chonko, and Wood, 1987), while others have encompassed advertising education in any context (e.g., Lauterborn, 1987; Rotfeld, 1985; Rotzoll and Barban, 1984).
Some studies have explored preparation for marketing positions (e.g., Kelley and Gaedecke, 1990) and some were concerned with marketing graduates (e.g., Scott and Frontczak, 1996). Some (Donnelly, 1992 and 1994) focused on various majors, such as liberal arts, marketing, and advertising, but overlooked the potential subtleties of minor concentrations or course selection.
Other studies have explored aspects of course selection (e.g., Deckinger et al., 1989; Kelley and Gaedecke, 1990; Gaedecke, Tootelian, and Schaffer, 1983). Even though there is a fairly extensive research trail, therefore, there is a distinct lack of consistency in the educational preparation of the applicant base.
Inherently different disciplines in the advertising spectrum require different training, skills, and education. In a rapidly evolving world of both communications and education, the issue may be broader than an applicant's major and include multiple majors with various emphases and course selections.
THE PRESENT STUDY
The present study explores the degree of course emphasis as it impacts on acceptability of a candidate to the Human Resource Director (HRD) in advertising agencies. It is the HRD who is called on to carry the predominant burden of applicant screening. Currently the screening process is taking on greater and greater importance because ever-tighter margins are compelling agencies to accomplish much more with fewer hands who must be both talented and intrinsically compatible with the corporate culture. In this context, if a …