Alumna Alicia Ly ‘15 of Spark Foundry Gives Students View of Ad Work with Big Brands, Tips for Success in the Industry

By Olivia Schilcher (@oschilcher54)

Journalism department alumna Alicia Maikao Ly recently spoke via Skype to Dr. Sara Hansen’s advertising media class regarding her paid digital media work and experience in the advertising industry. Ly graduated from UW Oshkosh in 2015 and has since earned a position as a social analyst with Spark Foundry in Chicago, part of Publicis Groupe, the third-largest communications company in the world.

Alicia Ly speaker image

As a social analyst, Ly helps companies like Mattel with the strategy and creative aspects of digital paid media. Ly was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to share her tips for success with the students and give them an inside scoop on what to expect when working in the industry. She described her strategic and tactical work in running, monitoring and pacing about $2.3 million in paid social media ads for brands on Facebook, Amazon and other platforms, including planning for the upcoming holiday season.

Ly described her career roles in public relations and advertising, as well as the importance of networking in the industry. Networking is powerful, as positions in advertising are often filled through referrals and recommendations, she said.

“It’s not about what you know, but who you know,” Ly said.

She encouraged students to get as much experience within the industry as possible before graduation. One way students can learn more about the roles in the advertising industry both before and after graduation is through internships. Interning is not only a great way for students to become well-rounded for employment prospects. It also opens doors for students to make connections with professionals in advertising and marketing.

Ly suggested that students sign up for classes that will give them more experience. She recommended courses such as the journalism department’s Strategic Campaigns in Advertising class or the Public Relations Campaigns class focused on the Bateman campaign. Ly said these types of classes allow students to dabble in various roles within a campaign and get “as close of an experience as you can get” to life within an agency. Once completed, the products of these campaigns make excellent portfolio pieces to share with future employers. Ly was a presenter on the 2014 UWO NSAC team, which won fourth place at the District 8 competition. She described each of these experiences as potential wins, and that big or small wins can help students reach professional goals.

“Celebrate the small wins – they are all stepping stones,” Ly said.

In addition to stressing the value of networking and gaining experience through classes and internships, Ly also stated that students should be aware of what they can bring to the table at a company. She explained that students should own what they know, meaning that they shouldn’t be afraid to be confident in knowing their own strengths. This confidence is beneficial, as those that speak up are more likely to be promoted or be chosen for development opportunities.

Ly also suggested that students get involved in organizations that they are passionate about, as these are great ways to become a more rounded job candidate. She knows this from experience, as she is very active in organizations such as ColorComm and Coalesce. These organizations emphasize elevating diverse talent within the advertising industry and building a network to connect these professional individuals. Ly is passionate about these groups because she also feels it is important to increase diversity within the business world.

Ly noted how her experiences in the journalism department prepared her for success in advertising, and in a competitive market. She encouraged students to dream big and never give up on their goals. She also urged students to reach out to her via LinkedIn if they had any further questions or were interested in connecting with other professionals.

The department sends a big thank you to Alicia for all of her insights!

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