Anjali Gupta ’15
Majored in media studies; minored in creative writing (self-designed)
Associate Conceptor at The Marketing Arm, Dallas
SCRIPPS COLLEGE: For your senior thesis, you authored a fictional story that unfolded on Twitter and other digital and social media platforms. Can you tell us about that project and what you learned?
ANJALI GUPTA: My media studies thesis was called Beneath Still Waters: An Exploration of Transmedia Narratives and Twitter Fiction. When I was thinking about the kind of project I wanted to complete during my senior year, it was important to me to combine my media studies knowledge with my minor in creative writing. I developed a strong interest in digital and social media and the way it shapes our culture and influences new methods of storytelling. Transmedia storytelling, which requires interdisciplinary, cross-medium thinking, seemed like a natural fit for all of my various interests. It allowed me to bring the concepts I studied in my classes to life and encompass them in a creative, digitally based narrative.
In terms of the story itself, I started with a broad idea: a journalist uncovers a supernatural conspiracy in a strange small town. From there, I developed 11 different characters with Twitter profiles, a website and blog for the small town, and a central “hub” for audiences to find all the elements in one place. It took me two semesters to plan, develop, and write out all the various elements. At the end of the second semester, the story unfolded in real time across all these different platforms for about one month.
There is no tried-and-true method for developing a project like Beneath Still Waters, especially since transmedia projects aren’t usually done by just one person. I had to figure out the pieces as I went along, and there were a lot of pieces. It definitely felt difficult to manage it at times, but it ended up being a really valuable experience. It allowed me to hone a variety of skills, including concept and story development, graphic design, social media management, marketing, and website creation. And when I was first interviewing with the Marketing Arm, talking about this project was one of the things that most impressed my now boss. So yes: Your thesis actually can get you a job!
SC: As a creative “conceptor” at an advertising agency, you tackle storytelling via digital platforms. What are some of the challenges to being able to connect with audiences? What are some of the opportunities?
AG: My team and I are the “idea people” of the agency. We contribute creative, big ideas that tell a compelling story while fulfilling the client’s objective and celebrating the brand. We are responsible for coming up with creative solutions that can work across multiple platforms. No matter what the assignment is, digital and social media are always key components—they are essential in figuring out how to take a big, conceptual idea to the audience so they can participate and become a part of the campaign.
I’d say the biggest challenge has been figuring out how to reconcile the initial creative vision with the realities of client expectations, budget, and execution. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when we’re talking about how to bring an idea to life. Even if it took months of hard work to develop a concept, audiences have to be able to understand the idea instantly without the benefit of seeing the structure behind it all.
The opportunities are to create something innovative that actually can reach a lot of people. Keeping on top of trends in digital technology is a huge part of what I do, and I get inspired by seeing what others are doing in that space. It’s exciting to be in a position where I get to consider the larger media landscape, search for the white space, and figure out what hasn’t been done before and what might be done.
One of my favorite quotes is from John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at Pixar, who said, “Art challenges the technology, and technology inspires the art.” I think it’s such a great description of how the two should work together. It’s important to understand both sides of the process—to create art that explores the limits and consequences of technology and to use technology to push the boundaries of what art can be.
SC: How did Scripps help prepare you for a career in digital marketing?
AG: I think the study of digital media and technology is so important to the college experience. It’s something that’s at our fingertips every day, so it’s a necessary skill to be able to step back and think about it. That was something I enjoyed about my media studies major—I was able to take concepts I learned in my classes and apply them to things I loved in pop culture, like Harry Potter or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
During spring 2014, I spent the semester studying graphic design in London at Central Saint Martins, an art school that emphasized creative concept development. I initially wanted to go to an art school to pursue graphic design. But while I was there, I learned to appreciate my liberal arts background. Often the assignments were to design a visual piece in response to an open-ended question such as, “What is graphic design?” It was easy to look at a question like that and have no idea where to start, but I learned how to draw on the research skills and analytical framework from Scripps academics to help narrow down a unique concept I could then design.
People talk a lot about how fields like computer science or engineering are increasingly important in today’s world, and of course they are. But I think it’s also true that the liberal arts education teaches you how to think flexibly in terms of research, critical thinking, and writing skills that will be useful anywhere you go. And when it comes to digital technology, which can change at such a rapid pace, it’s incredibly useful to have a liberal arts background.
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