Faculty Spotlight: David Hanneken

David Hanneken is an alumnus of the Diederich College of Communication and has recently returned to combine his passion of advertising and teaching to share his experience with Marquette students.

photo credit: Jay Filter

I grew up in Milwaukee’s Washington Heights neighborhood, near Washington Park. Prior to coming to Marquette, I was on the track to become a Milwaukee firefighter. I took courses at the Fire Academy and bided my time on the waitlist, but impatience got the best of me. So, I decided to enroll at Marquette University and found my way into the advertising program.

I always liked advertising, as my mother liked to remind people that I wrote an ad for Frosted Flakes in the 5th grade and sent it into Kellogg’s. (I still remember the idea, and it still holds up!) What intrigued me about advertising then intrigues me still — it’s how this industry provides the perfect opportunity to blend creative thinking with natural curiosities. Specifically, if I write ads for United Airlines account, I have to learn about the airline business. If I write ads for Miller Lite, I learn about the beer business. If I work on McDonalds, I learn all about the fast-food industry.

At the risk of sounding star-struck, I’ve had the opportunity to write commercials with Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey, Charles Barkley, and many other celebrities. What’s more, you get to work in Hollywood, Prague, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, and more, and do so with an expense account. What could be cooler than that? I even took a job in Hawaii for two years. Is it even safe to call that a job? In short, one is rarely bored in the advertising business, so for that reason and more, it’s always fascinating and loads of fun.

I have been an on-again, off-again adjunct for ten years and loved every minute of it. However, holding down a full-time job as an Executive Creative Director can mean a fair amount of travel and long work weeks, so I could not fully commit to teaching at Marquette as often as I would have liked, that’s why I had to step away these past few years.

One thing I did notice while teaching in the past was the quality of the students and the fabulous work ethic of those who wanted to excel in this field. I believe Marquette instills this work ethic in many of its students and the end-result shows in the quality of candidates.

“I’m proud to say I’ve hired a handful of Marquette advertising grads over the years, and I love to see how they are thriving in this industry. Many are in creative departments, media departments, some are in account service, others are editors and film directors, and I believe the strong foundation they received at Marquette helped make them successful.”

As I stepped away from the ad agency world this past summer after a 35-year career, I quickly found my way back to Marquette and jumped at the opportunity to return to the classroom. Hopefully I can help mold the minds of tomorrow’s great advertising rock stars.

My favorite memory of Marquette is also related to my worst memory.
First a little backstory: I was not a particularly strong student in high school. I screwed around a lot, got into trouble often, and a lack of academic discipline was reflected in my grades. So when I enrolled at Marquette, my transcripts and SATs were, shall we say, right on the edge — perhaps a tad below the university threshold — and the enrollment office “had some concerns.”

Thankfully, they took a chance and accepted my application with a few caveats. (Could I have been on double-secret probation? That’s possible.) Needless to say, I had very little confidence that first semester. I questioned everything I did and wondered if I should have stayed at the Fire Academy. But I worked hard and had a real desire to prove the naysayers wrong. I wanted to show the world I could succeed at a major university, and when I discovered advertising well, my eyes were opened and the sky was the limit.

It took a few semesters, but I started getting As and Bs, which fueled my passion for this career. My instructors further helped boost my confidence. They talked about various careers in the ad business, and even suggested areas they believed I’d excel. By my junior year I got an internship as an advertising copywriter and proceeded to win some creative awards in the Milwaukee Ad Club’s annual award show — something that rarely happens for a student-intern. Fast-forward to today, and I feel humbled and honored to have had a fabulous 35-year career, and I will be inducted into the Wisconsin Advertising Hall of Fame next month. So yeah, my best memory of Marquette took me four years to appreciate and even comprehend. It is a feeling of gratitude that they decided to take a chance on me.

Most people in the advertising business are natural born storytellers. I’m no exception. I love to tell stories. So it wasn’t a big surprise to those who know me that I decided to write a book. It’s a novel of historical fiction called “The Home Front,” and it was published last year. I have a handful of other books in the works now, too. I hope to get the second book published in the next year and others down the road. Some people like to do woodworking, they paint or spend hours gardening in their free time. I like to write and tell stories.