We are here to spotlight an amazing alumnus, Laila Houser, former member of PRISM and current Senior Account Executive for GUT Agency! Most recently, Laila has worked on the Google Pixel advertisement for the Super Bowl. Laila shared how her connections have let her achieve her ambitions and advice for current students looking to go into marketing. 

You currently work for GUT Agency as a Senior Account Executive, what were the steps you took to get where you are?

Networking throughout my time at Virginia Tech really helped me to break into the advertising industry and find my way to GUT. I leveraged the alumni and relationships within PRISM, in particular. I took a lot of initiative myself, reaching out to people via LinkedIn and even cold emailing companies I had an interest in learning more about. 

Because my goal was to land at a creatively driven agency, I received advice from one of Donna’s contacts in Pamplin to reach out to GUT. At the time GUT was a newer agency, but a powerhouse nonetheless. When speaking with my mentors about the opportunity, they encouraged me to move forward because I would learn a lot, while also working on world-renowned brands, which has proven to be true. 

How did your time at Virginia Tech, and more specifically PRISM influence how you approach digital marketing today?

In a lot of ways, PRISM really drove how I approached digital marketing. In every campaign that we set live, there is a digital marketing or social component. 

If you’re putting out a billboard, it’s also going to live on social media. If you’re putting out a commercial, it’s also going to live on social media.

I think that my experience with working with PRISM as a brand, really, was to drive engagement and awareness through our own social channels. Those are oftentimes our KPIs for even our biggest clients, so the sentiment translated over well. 

What challenges did you face after you realized your commercial would go on to be featured in the Super Bowl? 

The most difficult part of this campaign was telling this love story through the POV of a blind man while making sure the viewer followed us along the journey. 

Creating a Super Bowl commercial where the majority of the spot is blurry can be a risky leap for a brand to take. Throughout the process, we consulted with experts in an effort to accurately represent the blind and low-vision community. It’s really important to note that the blind POV portrayed in the film is, by no means, a one-size-fits-all. Blindness is a spectrum. The POV in the film is just one of many ways people from the blind and low-vision community see the world. 

It was a risk we were taking, and the entire team is glad it paid off. 

How has the very positive reception of the Google Pixel commercial influenced future projects? 

Google’s message around the Pixel has been about being the most inclusive phone in the world, this year’s Super Bowl spot was a continuation of this ever-lasting goal and message for the brand. 

Through the use of innovative AI features on the phone, Google has been able to provide accessibility for so many individuals in a way that makes a difference in people’s lives. So as we look into our future with Google, we are going to continue to keep that in mind and push the envelope with the creative that we bring forward to them to make sure that it is always true to the individual or community that we the brand aims to represent. 

What advice would you give to current students looking to go into marketing?

Much easier said than done, but don't settle. It took a lot in me to not just accept the first offer that came my way when I knew deep down that it wasn't necessarily the industry or role I was looking for. I had a gut feeling that the right fit would come along, and I followed it, literally and figuratively. 

If you have one, name one quote you would want everyone to hear. 

“Live Life In All Caps”– because at the end of the day, life’s no fun unless you’re taking it by the horns and doing what you love, loud and proud.