Steven Ebert ’14 is one of 12 individuals selected from a pool of more than 1,500 candidates for a three-year fellowship with WPP, the world’s largest advertising, public relations and branding company.
Elon University graduate Steven Ebert ’14 believes there’s a strong correlation between marketing success and one’s own perspective, and the strategic communications major credits his alma mater for influencing his outlook.
“Half of marketing is having a unique, interesting lens to view the world through, and mine wouldn’t be half as unique or interesting without the mentorship I found in Janna Anderson and Lee Bush,” said Ebert, acknowledging two of his School of Communications professors.
Beginning in September, Ebert, who is currently completing a master’s degree at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter, will embark on a three-year fellowship with WPP, the world’s largest advertising company by revenues. After a grueling five-month application process – which Advertising Age estimates is a tougher selection process than getting into Harvard – Ebert was selected as one of just 12 WPP fellows, chosen from a pool of more than 1,500 candidates.
As part of the fellowship, the former assistant director of Live Oak Communications will complete three one-year rotations with WPP’s operating companies, which include Ogilvy & Mather, Y&R, J. Walter Thompson and Burson-Marsteller. Each rotation is chosen on the basis of the individual’s interests and the group’s needs.
Ebert’s first rotation has not been determined, but he’s excited to expand his skill set and possibly work abroad. In its promotional materials, WPP heavily touts its international opportunities, noting that past fellows have completed their three rotations on three different continents.
“I don’t yet know where I’ll start, but the program is designed to rotate you through a variety of roles that grow and utilize a diverse set of strategic skills,” he said. “Sometimes it’s as a media analyst for a media company, sometimes it’s in account planning at an ad agency, sometimes it’s at a brand consultancy. It just depends on your interests and skill set. I’m looking most forward to immersing myself in the varied ideologies and approaches to the same field of study.”
Additionally, Ebert said he’s eager to better understand and incorporate empathic advertising, investigating how advertising can contribute to a better world.
“Advertising agencies have the largest megaphones of any modern industry, and there’s an inherent responsibility to make work that really means something,” he said. “WPP has the breadth to be able to study that problem from a variety of angles.”
Although the fellowship’s applications and rounds of interviews were exhausting, Ebert admitted he was actually “drawn by how challenging the selection process was.” He added, “It was partially about pursuing a dream job and partially about seeing if I had what it took to land it.”
Two points gave Ebert confidence heading into his application process. First, the VCU Brandcenter has a successful track record with students and graduates landing WPP Fellowships. Secondly, he praises his Elon professors, the School of Communications and Live Oak for providing him with the knowledge and skills to succeed in the advertising field.
“Live Oak was instrumental in developing a foundational understanding of advertising, and it’s what first assured me that I was going down the right path,” said Ebert. “Janna Anderson and Lee Bush were two of the most challenging professors I had, and they were crucial in challenging me to develop a perspective on the world. Beyond that, the classes I took outside of the School of Communications were absolutely vital in developing a holistic view of the world.”
Ebert also explained he’s “hugely indebted” to Kirstin Ringelberg and LM Wood, professors in the Art and Art History Department, for influencing his ideologies as well as the way he approaches work.
“I am a better student of culture and citizen of the world as a result of the investment that professors at Elon made in me,” he said.