Three Questions for Gary Mueller ’86

Gary Mueller headshotName:  Gary Mueller

Title and Organization:  Executive Creative Director – BVK/Founder and Volunteer Creative Director – Serve Marketing

Graduation year and degree: 1986 BA in Journalism and Psychology

J-School alum Gary Mueller has been inducted to the Wisconsin Advertising Hall of Fame. Gary’s career has made a huge impact on the nonprofit world, including founding the country’s first all-volunteer, nonprofit agency, Serve. We caught up with him to hear more about his career and his advice for J-Schoolers.

When it comes to this Hall of Fame recognition, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of what we’ve accomplished giving back to the community through our nonprofit, Serve Marketing. Our public service campaigns have helped to  reduce teen pregnancy by 65%. Helped to stop not one, but two shaken baby epidemics in Milwaukee. Helping to increase Foster Care parent inquiries in Wisconsin and reduce infant mortality rates. Raise awareness for human trafficking. Increasing youth STD testing in Omaha. And we did all this with volunteers from the ad community and BVK who donate all their time to helping underserved causes. There’s nothing like it in the country.

What’s the best advice you have for a J-School student who wants to do what you do?

First, work outside of school in your field every chance you get. Volunteer or do internships from freshman year on. Even if you have to intern for free. Try a lot of different things. Volunteer to do communications, ads, pr, websites, social media for clubs, for non-profits, friends and neighbors who own businesses or run organizations. Look at everything around you as an opportunity to get better, to build your book, your resume and get experience. Second, connect with as many people in the field as you can. Reach out to everyone you know in advertising or people that know people in advertising and ask to do informational interviews. Then ask them to set you up with people they work with to meet. Find a mentor and stay in touch with them monthly.   

When we say “J-School,” what do you think of?

When I hear the word J-school, it just gives me fond memories of when I found my passion for advertising. When I started out in the school I didn’t know what kind of writer I wanted to be. I started thinking I would be going into PR. But after listening to some of the speakers (copywriters) the school brought in from the ad industry and taking a campaigns class, I was completely hooked on advertising. And I knew from then on I wanted to be a creative writer in the ad industry.