Hub for Brand Innovation and Advertising Technology launched

Student in high-tech experiential learning classroom

A new campus-funded initiative on strategic communication and emerging technology will connect advertising students, faculty, and brands, putting research into practice.

The Hub for Brand Innovation and Advertising Technology is a partnership between the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising, the Siebel Center for Design, and Technology Services at Illinois. Their proposal was selected to be funded through the Office of the Provost’s Investment for Growth program in 2020.

“Enriching experiential learning opportunities will transform the educational experience for students and our vision aligns with the strategic plan of the University of Illinois in that we are technology focused, innovative, and community-building. The Brand Hub will reimagine what advertising education can be,” said Professor Mike Yao, head of the Sandage Department of Advertising, and principal investigator.

The four primary goals of the Brand Hub are experiential learning, professional development, innovation and entrepreneurship, and applied research and consulting. The Brand Hub will provide resources for student learning, faculty research, industry partnership, and community engagement.

“In our first year, we will prioritize our commitment to experiential learning, to the development of innovative projects, and to actively working with our esteemed advertising alums,” said Susan Muirhead, visiting associate director of the Brand Hub. 

The Brand Hub will support multidisciplinary, human-centered design by providing a lab space for project-based learning inside and outside the classroom. This will also be a place for industry, faculty, and students to come together through the development of online programs, technology bootcamps, and networking events.

The first opportunity to participate in Brand Hub programming will be available in July through the Sandage Summer Academy. “Frontiers of Digital Advertising” will examine the future of data analytics and innovative uses of technology in the advertising industry across four online sessions. 

An industry speaker series and an advertising alumni mentoring program for students will be established in the fall, increasing opportunities for students to engage with industry professionals.

“The College of Media is proud to be at the forefront of this initiative at a time when the digital media landscape is rapidly evolving,” said Dean Tracy Sulkin. “The Hub for Brand Innovation and Advertising Technology demonstrates how the Sandage Department of Advertising—the first advertising education program in the country—continues to offer cutting-edge learning and research opportunities for students.”

As part of its innovation and entrepreneurship focus, the Brand Hub will build prototype technologies, such as dashboards and apps, that have the potential to bring revenue back into its activities.

Currently in development is the Illinois Brand Reputation Wellness Monitoring System, which will measure and forecast a brand’s health through a dashboard. A prototype for potential commercialization is in the works. The analytics framework aims to gauge and predict the influence of digital news coverage (i.e., earned media attention) on a brand’s reputation to complement many social media-based brand monitors in the market. The goal is to help brand managers identify and manage brand reputation risks before they appear. 

“Tech Services is excited to partner with the College of Media and the Siebel Center for Design to find new and innovative ways that technology can enhance advertising,” said Nick Vance, manager of data and technology innovation at Technology Services. Tech Services is a provider of campuswide computing, networking, storage, communications, and instructional technology services.

The Brand Hub is also forming a Social Media Lab in collaboration with the Sandage Department of Advertising. Students will work with faculty on social media strategy and related projects for clients across campus, as well as for local businesses, start-ups, and nonprofits in the community. Students will earn course credit and/or internship experience.

“Creating opportunities for students to tackle real-world problems at the intersection of technology, advertising, and design while they are still in school will undoubtedly equip them to continuously push the boundaries and drive innovation in their future careers,” said Rachel Switzky, director of the Siebel Center for Design. 

—Holly Rushakoff