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Adi On Advertising

Leona Liu

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Adi Shankar, a Communication senior, is playing professor this quarter. The 21-year-old is teaching a class on advertising, something that the former clothing model, ad agency founder and president of AdShop has plenty of expertise in.

PLAY: So, what’s this class you’re teaching?

Adi Shankar: It’s about the advertising industry. Susan Dun and Mark Witte from the economics department are the faculty advisors. I’m teaching it with another student, Kunal Kadakia.

PLAY: How did the idea for teaching the class come about?

Adi Shankar: I was having a conversation with Witte when I mentioned it. Right now, it’s a pilot program. If it does well, we are going to expand the size of it and have listed under Business Institutions on CAESAR.

PLAY: How many students are enrolled this quarter?

Adi Shankar: The class was originally designed for 50 but it was cut down to 14.

PLAY: Tell me about the class.

Adi Shankar: It meets on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. I lecture for the first hour. Then I show videos and documentaries for about half an hour. Right before the end of class I have them break into small discussion groups.

PLAY: You’ve been on both sides now. Which do you prefer, being the student or the teacher?

Adi Shankar: I love teaching. I think you learn a lot more when you teach because you need to really understand the material.

PLAY: How did you become so knowledgeable about advertising?

Adi Shankar: I was the president of AdShop (the student-run advertising agency at NU) for a while. Then, at the end of my sophomore year, I started my own boutique ad agency in Evanston.

PLAY: Did that take off?

Adi Shankar: Yeah, it did. I started it with two other guys who are both Northwestern students. Because we’re all Indian, we called the agency “The 47 Company,” because India won its independence in 1947. We worked really well with a lot of coffee shops and restaurants in Evanston. Things got pretty big and we got bigger clients. We actually ended up landing Steve Madden.

PLAY: Wow, that’s impressive. So I assume you’ll be going into advertising after graduation?

Adi Shankar: Actually, no. I’m going to be working for the financial services division of Morgan Stanley in River Woods starting in July. But I think there’s an aspect of marketing and advertising in any job so my experience will help.

PLAY: You’re graduating in June. Are you freaking out?

Adi Shankar: Not at all. It’s been my best year at Northwestern. I actually can’t deal with some of the seniors. They freak out way too much. I have a friend and his hair is literally falling out these days. That’s why I really like hanging out with the younger kids because they’re optimistic and full of life. It’s been a blast living with them this year.

PLAY: You’re living with underclassmen this year? Where?

Adi Shankar: I’m living in the Lodge (Chi Psi). I love living on campus. I can totally see myself being that sketchy alumni who comes back every fall for New Student Week.

PLAY: Not another sketchy townie! So where are you from anyway?

Adi Shankar: Well, it’s complicated. I was born in Calcutta and lived in India until I was 5 years old. Then I moved to Hong Kong, lived there for two years then moved to Los Angeles. We moved again when I was 11 and went to Hong Kong. When I was 15, we moved again to Rhode Island. These days, I’m living in Singapore.

PLAY: What are your plans for the rest of today?

Adi Shankar: I actually have a class later tonight. I’m taking an independent study class on acting. It is a hobby of mine and I used to be in a lot of plays when I was younger.

PLAY: Natural flair for the theatrics?

Adi Shankar: You bet. I was actually a model in Singapore for the clothing line Giordano’s when I was 17.

PLAY: That’s wild. What was your model name? Don’t tell me it’s Derek Zoolander.

Adi Shankar: No, it’s pretty embarrassing actually. It was Paris Shankar.

PLAY: Paris?

Adi Shankar: Yeah, but this was way before Paris Hilton came out. I had just read about Troy and was obsessed with the character. I’m embarrassed though. If I could change it now, it’d totally be Spike.

-Leona Liu