Grand lecture features top ad executive

In a sustained effort to expose students to important professionals from both the public and private spheres, the Gordon Grand Fellowship sponsored a lecture by Peggy Conlin, president and CEO of the National Advertising Council, at a Master’s Tea in Branford College on Tuesday.

While about 10 New Haven community residents quietly sipped coffee and nibbled on pastries, nearly 25 students piled into the living room of Branford Master Steven Smith to learn about the National Advertising Council and Conlin’s life.

“These lectures have a career dimension,” Smith said. “They bring people to Yale that work in fields that interest students, and it gives these students a chance to spend time, and even to share dinner, with the president of the Advertising Council. That’s big time.”

After working in advertising, publishing and business for over 20 years, Conlin assumed her position at the National Advertising Council nearly five years ago. Since then she has worked to affect social change through the influence of public advertising. The council campaigns on behalf of over 50 social issues including parental apathy, AIDS, education and forest fires.

While Conlin explained that she has witnessed positive cultural change as a result of her organization’s efforts, she specifically cited progress in the council’s work with the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, seatbelt advocacy, the United Negro College Fund, and drunk driving awareness.

Conlin said she believes the council has had a positive national effect.

“Since the start of the drunk driving campaign, we’ve noticed that society has begun to ask ‘Who is the designated driver,’ instead of ‘Let’s have a drink for the road,’” Conlin said.

Yale students have actively utilized the Gordon Grand Fellowship lectures to investigate possible careers and to find inspiration from accomplished professionals, Smith said.

Conlin explained the structure and function of the council, as well as its sources of funding and support, but audience members said they were especially interested in a video she showed that previewed the council’s upcoming public service commercials. The video features old favorites such as Smokey the Bear — who continues his work in stopping forest fires — and live celebrities including Halle Berry and Charles Barkeley, who are helping the council to raise awareness regarding race relations and parental apathy, respectively.

Alina Nevins ’06 said she appreciates the University’s effort to bring influential women to campus because they provide motivation for young females aspiring to influential positions.

“It’s good to see a woman that’s actually done it,” Nevins said. “I like to listen to someone with a different story.”

The Gordon Grand Fellowship will sponsor at least two more lectures at Branford College this semester, Smith said.

Advertising Council President Peggy Conlon speaks at a Gordon Grand Lecture and Branford College Master’s Tea on Tuesday afternoon.
Zoe Pershing-Foley
Advertising Council President Peggy Conlon speaks at a Gordon Grand Lecture and Branford College Master’s Tea on Tuesday afternoon.

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