Alumni in Management Series Talks Pharmaceutical Advertising Niche

Monmouth University’s Alumni in Management (AIM) Series, a Zoom program that features alumni who educate undergraduates about the professional world, hosted its third and final event of the semester on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Organized by Joe Palazzolo, Ed.D., Instructor in the Management and Leadership Department within the Leon Hess Business School, the goal is to bring experience from emergent leaders from the professional world into the classroom.

The third event featured Graziella Ruffa, who currently works at Klick Health, a pharmaceutical advertising agency. Ruffa graduated from Monmouth University in 2016 with a degree in Marketing along with a minor in Graphic Design. Being a first generation American with immigrant parents from Italy, Ruffa had a very strong work ethic ingrained in her at a young age. In high school, she was involved in several activities including being the president of an anti-bullying club called Friends of Rachel, playing on the soccer team, and running track and cross country.

After graduating from high school, Ruffa had the ability to run cross country in Florida but chose to attend Monmouth so she could be close to her family. Ruffa made the most of her four years at Monmouth by getting involved with numerous organizations and clubs. She was the president of an entrepreneurial organization in the Leon Hess Business School called Enactus, part of the Federal Work Study program, a member of a co-ed fraternity called Alpha Kappa Psi, and worked numerous internships.

Being an active member of so many different organizations, Ruffa created a strong network for herself by the time she graduated. She said, “A degree is a degree, it just depends on what you do with it, and I think without going to Monmouth I would have been lost in my career if I didn’t have the relationships that I did.”

Ruffa began her professional journey in the advertising world when she got her first post-college job at a small 50-person agency that was only five minutes from her house. There were many “red flags” at this company and Ruffa learned a lot from them. She said it is important to get into a business that has, “sustainability and proper growth trajectory that you’re looking for, that way you don’t come and leave sooner than you think.”

Following her time with this agency, Ruffa accessed some of her network and landed a job at McCann Health, a prestigious advertising agency. She worked as a Product Coordinator where she got her first glimpse into what it takes to get a product live in the market. Even though Ruffa enjoyed what she was doing, she was ready for the next step and wanted to get involved with brand strategy. She said, “I relentlessly did extra work, I worked overtime, and ended up doing some small projects for people that were in strategy.” Her hard work paid off when she became a Brand Strategist at McCann and later worked with their customer engagement group.

Ruffa was at McCann for three years before making the jump to Wunderman Thompson Health. During her time there, Ruffa said she learned that, “you really have to understand your strengths and how to work with people, and that comes with time.” She said that her journey with Wunderman Thompson was fun, but also tumultuous because she went through three different managers in less than a year. Ruffa said, “I ended up managing myself and you never want that to happen because you are not growing.”

Ruffa made the decision to leave Wunderman Thompson and currently works for Klick Health. Some of the people she works with at Klick are former colleagues from past agencies. She explained that it is crucial to maintain good relations in the advertising industry and never burn any bridges. She is happy to be with Klick because they take good care of their employees. They understand the struggle of working long hours, so they compensate their employees with top tier snacks and holiday gifts. Ruffa has high ambition to become a director in the next year.

Some final advice that Ruffa gave the undergraduates was, “Bring your A-game. If there are a lot of athletes in the room, then have that competitive nature. Be respectful, always at the end of the day, be professional, be kind, and don’t be afraid to push the envelope because that’s what employers are looking for.”

The AIM Series will return this spring with more Leon Hess Business School alumni sharing their professional experiences with today’s undergraduates.