VCU Brandcenter

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VCU Brandcenter
(previously VCU Adcenter)
Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Brandcenter-logo.png
Type Public university
Established 1996
Address [103 S. Jefferson Street], United States Richmond, Virginia, USA
Website Brandcenter homepage

The VCU Brandcenter (often called Brandcenter, formerly known as VCU Adcenter) is a graduate program in business, with a concentration in branding at Virginia Commonwealth University . The program won an O’Toole Award in 2009 [1] and by Creativity Magazine in 2007. The VCU Brandcenter offers students a master's degree to complement the advertising portfolio students create.[citation needed] The program is known within the advertising industry for its intensity.[citation needed] However, students who graduate from the program earn valuable real life experience to develop brands on a global scale.[citation needed]

The program allows students to choose one of five different areas of study in marketing and advertising. These sections or tracks are copywriting, art direction, communication strategy, creative brand management and experience design. Students study within their track for roughly two thirds of their classes. For the remaining third, all tracks combine to teach how to use branding and advertising to solve business problems.

The current VCU Brandcenter building was designed by South African architect Clive Wilkinson.[2]

Tracks of study[edit]

VCU Brandcenter, Monroe Park campus

Art Direction

The art direction track is designed to turn students who think visually into art directors in the advertising industry. Art directors apply visual solutions to solve business problems. Art directors often have a background in fine arts, or at least an appreciation for the world of visual art. In the Brandcenter's two-year program, they learn to think strategically and conceptually before beginning to create advertisements. Art directors work closely with copywriters to make ads that could run in the real world. The curriculum teaches art directors to not only how create visuals and logos, but how to think through business problems.


Strategists link brand and consumer. They represent the consumer within the agency and conceptual process. Through innovative primary and secondary research, they develop and apply insights. They use these insights to create a specific strategy for a campaign or branding venture, to position the brand within the daily lives of consumers. They then brief the creative team, of copywriters, art directors, and experience designers on the strategy for the creative concept. In addition, they develop a media plan and creative vehicles for advertisements or messages.


The copywriting track teaches how to write advertising copy. The Brandcenter teaches that copywriters are storytellers who must use words to best solve business and market problems. Copywriters learn to think conceptually before launching into words. They go through two years of grueling training, learning to start with strategy and concept before crafting advertisements. They work closely with art directors to make ads that could run in the real world. The curriculum teaches that copywriters don’t just write headlines, tag lines and website descriptions, they must think through a business problem and develop a strategy to solve it.

Creative Brand Management

The creative brand management track combines business and creativity to teach students how to solve problems. On graduating, many student go to work for advertising industry clients instead of advertising agencies. The school developed this track in 2005 to help create clients that better understand how advertising agencies function. At the Brandcenter, creative brand managers are taught to act as the client.

Experience Design

Experience Designers use conceptual skills to advertise brands in digital spaces. They extend brand campaigns past mobile applications and websites by bringing new brand experiences to digital space. The track addresses the changing industry, as the digital world plays a bigger part in advertising and branding every year.


The Adcenter opened in 1996, under the leadership of Diane Cook-Tench. Cook-Tench, a former senior vice president and creative director at The Martin Agency, worked with then-president of VCU, Dr. Eugene Trani to create the school. She helped put together a board of directors that included Jay Chiat, founder of TBWA Chiat/Day, and Dan Wieden, president of Wieden & Kennedy, from her contacts in the industry. From the beginning, the program was based on what actually happens in the advertising industry.

The original board of directors wanted the school to focus on diversity, and on the future of advertising rather than its past. In 2003 Rick Boyko, former Co-President and CCO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, took the position of Director. Under his leadership In 2008, the program changed its name from the VCU Adcenter to the VCU Brandcenter. The school felt the new name better reflected the rapidly changing advertising industry, and changes in the curriculum. For nine years Rick was Director and Professor at the VCU Brandcenter.

In 2012, the VCU Brandcenter welcomed new Director Helayne Spivak, former Chief Creative Officer of Y&R and JWT.

Executive Education[edit]

The Brandcenter works with advertising professionals in addition to students. The Executive Education program is designed to help advertising professionals to explore innovative methods for consumer engagement, and shows them how to apply this thinking.

Sixty Magazine[edit]

Sixty magazine is an annual magazine published by the Brandcenter. The title derives from the sixty weeks that students spend earning their master's degrees. Current circulation is around 8,000. The concept of the magazine is chaos.[citation needed] Content comes from students and faculty, and contains student work, art, interviews, and articles about the advertising industry, the Richmond area, and activities within the program.


  • Wayne Gibson
  • Scott Witthaus
  • Andrew LeVasseur
  • Don Just
  • Kelly O'Keefe
  • Peter Coughter
  • Mark Fenske
  • Caley Cantrell
  • Kevin Rothermel
  • Berwyn Hung


  • Dean Collins
  • Andrea Groat
  • Katherine Keogh
  • Amy Robinson
  • Hawley Smyth
  • Ashley Sommardahl
  • PJ Sykes

Board of directors[edit]

Advisory Board:

The Brandcenter Board:

  • John Adams, Chairman of VCU Brandcenter Board, Chairman of The Martin Agency
  • Allison Arden, Vice President and Publisher at Advertising Age
  • Brian Collins, Chairman and Co-Founder of COLLINS
  • Earl Cox, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer of The Martin Agency
  • Susan Credle, Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett Chicago
  • Augusta Duffey, Creative Director at Consulting
  • Bob Greenberg, Founder, Chairman, CEO at R/GA
  • Diane Jackson, EVP & Director of Integrated Production at DDB Chicago
  • Jim Joseph, President of Cohn & Wolfe
  • Gareth Kay, Co-Founder of Chapter SF
  • Dave Knox, Chief Marketing Officer at Rockfish Interactive
  • Paul Lavoie, Chairman of Taxi
  • Vicki Lins, EVP & Global CMO of United Way
  • Matt Miller, President and CEO of Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP)
  • Ty Montague, CEO, Co:Collective
  • Dick Robertson, Former Executive at Warner Bros.
  • Matthew J. Scheckner, President and CEO of Stillwell Partners
  • Jerry Shereshewsky, Chief Grown Up at GrownUpMarketing
  • Helayne Spivak, Director of VCU Brandcenter
  • Jeff Steinhour, Managing Partner and Vice Chairman at Crispin Porter + Bogusky
  • Alain Sylvain, Founder and CEO of Sylvain Labs
  • Elizabeth Talerman, CEO and Managing Partner of Nucleus
  • Rick Webb, Investor


External links[edit]