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Ian Heath: Advertising Research Strategist

"Being a social science major taught me to ask questions."

Portrait photo

Ian Heath

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners advertising agency, San Francisco

Graduation: Fall 2015

Major: Cultural Anthropology (Honors), Minor in Middle East/South Asia Studies

Ian Heath is a quantitative strategist at the San Francisco-based creative advertising agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, whose clients include Pepsi, Cheetos, Doritos, Comcast and the Golden State Warriors. Heath spent over a decade working blue collar jobs around the country before returning to college at age 30. He graduated in fall 2015 with honors in cultural anthropology with a minor in Middle East/South Asia Studies.

What do you do at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners?

“I do any kind of quantitative research—like survey and secondary research—that needs to be done for our clients. Brands position themselves in the world and [figure out] how they’re going to speak to the consumers that use their products. We go a lot into demographics and the psychology of how consumers think, their lifestyle, how they relate to the product, with the proposed strategy, and how the products fit into the culture of any given consumer group. Advertising is all about culture and how products fit into people’s culture and who they are. Culture informs a huge amount of who we are as individual people and how we relate with outside influences such as advertising.”

How did your education at UC Davis prepare you for your job?

“Being a social science major taught me to ask smart questions. Anthropology especially is all about questions: what’s the right question, and what’s the context behind what’s going on? That’s what my job is—I ask questions of people, clients, other departments as well as the consumer.

“The environment of UC Davis, where there isn’t a lot of competition between students and there’s a lot of collaboration, really helped when I got out into the business world. At least at my company there isn’t a lot of competition between people, and you’re expected to be a real solid team player while working across all sorts of different departments and clients.”

Are there any classes or programs you found particularly helpful?

“Almost every class I took at Davis really helped a lot. I construct a lot of surveys. Linguistic anthropology really helped me understand the difference between academic language and colloquial language. This allows me to construct questions in a way that is available for people all over the U.S. to easily understand.

I was also part of the pilot program for the data studies initiative that is going on there now, where they bring in social scientists and stuff that teach people how to process data, how to program using R, and how to ask proper questions. It gave me some hard data skills that weren’t available in the anthropology department at the time.

“I really suggest that students take basic a statistics class, because I’ve found [statistics] to be one of the most applicable skills out in the business world. It doesn’t matter what part of the business world you’re in—at some point, you’re going to deal with statistics and data, what they mean, and how to draw implications out of them.”

Any advice for current students?

“People need to network and get their name out there. They need to have a LinkedIn account that’s really well-constructed and has a clear picture of who they are, what they’re good at, how it can apply to the industries or the type of job they want.

The other thing I suggest is, go travel. Get to know different places in this country and experience different cultures. It helps us be able to adopt different viewpoints just to explore them. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, but being able to step into someone else’s shoes and say, ‘Oh, how are they seeing the world?’—there’s nothing more powerful than that.”

“Finally, approach school like a job. You really need to learn to show up to a class every day and be engaged—really ask questions and never stop being curious because that drives our self-improvement and makes us immensely more successful in life. Learning can’t stop when you leave school.”

— Noah Pflueger-Peters (B.A., English, ’17)