In today’s advertising world, flexibility goes hand-in-hand with caring. When the COVID-19 pandemic came to Muncie, McKinley Avenue Agency — a student-run advertising and media sales agency at Ball State University — was among the first to help local businesses.

Abby HinesBall State junior Abby Hines, the agency’s executive advertising director, worked with fellow staff members to come up with the advertising packages that would best reach the Ball State and Muncie communities.

“Back when everything was really coming to reality in March, with the rumors of the University moving in-person classes to remote learning and businesses closing temporarily, the team sat down and knew we had to do something different,” said Hines, an advertising major from Saint John, Indiana. “We had to have honest conversations with our clients quickly. Hearing their worries pushed us to the idea of free advertising. This wasn’t an original idea, but if every agency is able to do this in some way, we could make a huge impact as an industry.

“Coming from a family who owns a small business back in northwest Indiana, I was facing this worry firsthand. I knew the significance of what we were able to do and why we needed to do it so quickly, no matter the cost to us.”

The sales team came together and decided the best way to support the community during this time was to offer free advertising to help struggling local businesses. Four local businesses reached out to take advantage of the opportunity.

“The truth is that we're in a very interesting industry, one that changes often and has to be flexible,” Hines said. “But at the end of the day, we're in the business of helping people, so this was just another way we could do that.”

The extra effort to be flexible and caring didn’t surprise Betsy Meyer, Unified Media’ s creative director and the agency’s professional advisor.

She also noted that despite the pandemic, this is not a time for businesses to be silent.

“Our students are hard-working and compassionate, and they always have the best interest of our customers at heart,” Meyer said. “Our teams know that we are here to offer services and products that will actually help and produce results for our clients. While the agency does exist to bring in revenue to support student media at Ball State, we also uphold the values of the Beneficence Pledge as they apply to what we do. No one on our team felt this was an appropriate time to sell. Instead, the immediate reaction was ‘How can we help?’”