Master’s Program


Mockup of out of home ads for Upwork - a live client project

Strategists use their power of curiosity about people, culture, and brands to drive strategy for advertising and brand communications.

Representing the voice of the consumer, strategists use research to understand people: what matters to them, what motivates their decisions, and what drives the cultures around them. The insights discovered along the way illuminate the best way forward and inspire their creative partners in developing powerful creative ideas.

If you want to be a Strategist or Account Planner at ad agencies, in-house creative studios for brands, consultancies, content studios, or tech startups, the Strategy concentration is for you.

You might be a Strategist:

If this sounds like you:

  • You often find yourself falling through interesting rabbit holes on the Internet
  • You like to use both sides of your brain—creative and analytical—to solve problems
  • You have good intuition about the people around you and why they behave like they do; you are interested in people in general—be it psychology, sociology, history, or even why some songs have become popular while others haven’t
  • You love having deep conversations with people about anything, and people feel comfortable opening up to you
  • You’re always looking for a better way to do things—from the best spot to wait for the subway to the non-obvious, but ideal parking area at the airport

If a day in the life of a strategist sounds fun:

  • Conducting primary research (qualitative and quantitative), secondary/syndicated research; category and competitive reviews
  • Developing brand positioning, brand strategy, comms plans, creative briefs, user personas, as well as platform, product, and service design strategy 
  • Understanding the culture of, and how people are using, new media and tech platforms, and how brands can participate
  • Building and connecting campaigns into ecosystems across media and tech platforms  
  • Being the best partners in the building—working with traditional creatives, account and brand managers, and experience designers
Mockup of student work for Upwork for a live client project

Brand Experiences Live-Client Project / 2023: Kennedy Thompson (Strategy), Lindsey Evans (Art Direction), Grace Hudson (Art Direction), Leo Cvitanovich (Copywriting), Victoria Nguyen (Account Management), Patrick Nguyen (Experience Design)
  • The Ask: Get Gen Z to see Upwork as a place for real opportunities
  • The Insight: Gen Z draws a thin line between their work and their passion
  • The Opportunity: Show Gen Z that Upwork doesn’t have the gatekeepers of the corporate world. With Upwork, you build your career, your way.
  • Strategy: Your Career, Unscripted
  • Campaign Idea: Free Your Work 

Strategy at the Brandcenter

Studying Strategy at the Brandcenter prepares you to hit the ground running as a Strategist or Account Planner at ad agencies, in-house creative studios for brands, consultancies, content studios, or tech startups.


At the Brandcenter, you will not only perfect your craft in Strategy, but you will also work collaboratively with your classmates across concentrations.

Here’s what you’ll do on all-concentration team projects as a Strategist, as well as what your teammates will do:

What each concentration does on all-concentration team projects


  • Focus on consumers + culture
  • Lead research efforts (develop a research plan, conduct field research, and analyze results)
  • Turn research data into insights; develop strategic direction and work with creative partners to create concepts/work inspired by strategic direction


  • Focus on a client’s business, category, and competitors
  • Lead internal, cross-functional teams
  • Ensure creative work meets business objectives; evaluate ROI when possible


  • Using business insights from creative brand managers and consumer/cultural insights from strategists, develop creative ideas to solve business challenges, engage consumers, and bring brands to life
  • While copywriters generally focus on writing and art directors generally focus on visual design, most CW/AD teams collaborate on all creative aspects


  • Develop and design digital products and/or physical experiences where brands and people interact
  • Focus on the user experience for the product or experience they’re designing
  • Provide guidance and ideas regarding new/emerging technologies

Here’s what your sixty weeks at the Brandcenter will look like:

Semester 1 (Fall) / Weeks 1-15

  • The Business of Branding (All concentrations)
  • Creative Thinking (All concentrations)
  • Strategic Thinking (Strategists + Creative Brand Managers)
  • Craft for Strategists
Semester 2 (Spring) / Weeks 16-30

  • Strategy & Design (Experience Designers + Strategists)
  • Persuasion for Strategists
  • Comms Planning & UX
  • Visual Storytelling
Summer Between Your First and Second Years / Internship

A summer internship is not required, but we’ll give you the tools to help you land a great one at agencies and companies doing some of the industry’s best work.

Semester 3 (Fall) / Weeks 31-45

  • Brand Experiences (All concentrations)
  • Creative Fusion (Art Directors, Copywriters, and Strategists)
  • Cultural Impact: Advanced Account Planning
Semester 4 (Spring) / Weeks 46-60

  • Innovation (all concentrations)
  • Creating Gravitational Pull
  • Advanced Portfolio for Strategists


Here are the prerequisites for strategy applicants and all applicants:

Prerequisites for Strategy Applicants

Strategy applicants should be able to:

  • Think out of the box and also bring the ideas down to earth
  • Demonstrate the ability to see how seemingly unrelated ideas might come together
  • Tell an engaging story and present it in a compelling way
  • Make hard choices for the good of a project
  • Communicate clearly and concisely through writing

Strategy applicants should have:

  • Proficiency in Office Suites
  • Passion for current events, culture shifts, and trends
  • Drive to be “in the know” and enjoy sharing your favorite finds
Prerequisites for All Applicants

All applicants should be curiouscreative, and collaborative.

All applicants should be able to:

  • Think creatively and critically
  • Enjoy working and fully participating in teams
  • Manage time effectively and meet project deadlines
  • Relate to others and embrace open communication

All applicants should have:

  • Experience collaborating in a group
  • An enjoyment of creating/making
  • Professional ambition and drive
  • A bachelor’s degree

Strategy Lead

Headshot of Kevin Rothermel

Kevin Rothermel

Professor, Strategy & Creative Brand Management

Mockup of ad in transit station
Mockup of an ad in a magazine
Defying the norm for the category, Arm & Hammer’s scratch-and-sniff will smell like nothing.
  • Background: The deodorant category, focusing mostly on scent and performance, has two main messages: “Smell like a man, man.” and “Don’t sweat it, handle it.” These messages don’t resonate with everyone—particularly the people who don’t believe that your deodorant/scent has anything to do with what kind of man you are; it just needs to work and keep you from smelling like BO. Arm & Hammer (and its secret weapon, baking soda) is known for and has a proven track record of neutralizing smell.
  • Strategy: The next worst thing to smelling like BO is to smell like a try-hard. The best smell is not smelling at all.
  • Idea: Smell boring

Ready to apply for Strategy?


Apply for our two-year, full-time master's program for art direction, copywriting, creative brand management, experience design, and strategy.

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Explore the concentrations

Art Direction

Art Directors create and curate the visual expression of a brand.


Copywriters craft words to tell stories that create ultimate impact.

Creative Brand Management

Business-, people-, and leadership-savvy, Creative Brand Managers lead client and agency teams to accomplish business objectives through creative solutions.

Experience Design

Experience Designers use the principles of human-centered design to develop digital products and physical experiences where brands and people interact.