Longtime University of Tulsa adjunct instructor and co-founder of the university’s Ad Program William “Bill” Hinkle (BS ’69) was inducted into the TU Communication Hall of Fame on Jan. 26, 2017.
Hinkle has helped shape the careers of numerous students for 23 years, but he won’t call himself — or even respond to — professor. Instead, he offers other descriptors for his role at TU: mentor and advocate chief among them. “In this business, if you don’t have someone who’s singing your praises to ad agencies, branding firms and PR companies, you’ll have a difficult time getting into the door,” he says.
A 47-year veteran of the advertising business, Hinkle has secured a spot as a legend in the creative industry in Tulsa and the surrounding region. Perhaps more importantly, he’s left a legacy among those who are fortunate to have been transformed by his teaching.
“Bill Hinkle is the best advocate for students that I know,” says Katie Snyder, a senior communication major. “He devotes an inordinate amount of time, money and effort ensuring that his students are successful both in and out of the classroom.”
Hinkle’s father owned the largest graphic design studio in the southwest and having grown up around the business, he knew as early as the eighth grade where his career path would lead. After spending his freshman year at OSU, Hinkle transferred to TU and made the most of his time on campus, living in the Kappa Sigma house and serving as editor of The Collegian newspaper during his junior and senior years.
As a new graduate in 1969, Hinkle started his career as a “gofer” in an ad agency and quickly moved his way up, working as a copywriter at Ackerman Ad Agency, then in 1975, founding J. William Hinkle, Inc. He grew the business from two employees to 35 before selling it in 1983 and launching Hinkle Creative Services, Inc. in 1991, serving stints at local creative firms Hood, Hope & Associates and Ad Inc. in between. National accolades and awards mark the success of Hinkle’s career, testaments to his bold vision, hard work and creative execution.
He stepped into teaching after noticing a concerning trend when it came to scouting new talent — particularly from his alma mater. “We weren’t hiring anyone from TU,” he said. “Students would show up to interviews having had no internship experience and with little knowledge of advertising.”
So, he did something about it.
Hinkle made a phone call to Steve Jones, head of the TU’s Communication Department at the time. “I told him it was a shame that with the industry getting older, there were no young people coming in to take their place.” Hinkle said, laying out his case for teaching an advertising class that would give TU students practical skills.
He got the job, and started teaching his first class soon after. The CEO of CITGO, a client at the time, agreed to let Hinkle’s students work on a project for the company. “After the students presented their work, he looked at me and said, ‘Bill, I’ve gotten better ideas from your students than I have from my national ad agency in two years.’ That’s when I told my wife, Rosie, ‘You know, I think I can do this.’”
Former student Justin Johnson (BS ’12), now an account executive at Schnake Turnbo Frank, says that letting students take the reins on client projects is a hallmark of Hinkle’s teaching style. “He genuinely believes that the best minds were his students’ minds, and his job was to pull the best ideas out of his students. He would challenge you to make an idea better, and I admired that about him. It made everyone do better work; and even in my career today, when I do a first draft, I hear that voice saying, ‘Hey, you can do better than that.’”
Snyder adds that, “In his classes, we are allowed to be daring and bold. He also lets us know that sometimes, our bold ideas will fail. This does not mean that we fail — it is simply an opportunity to try again.”
During the past two decades, Hinkle has expanded his vision beyond teaching a single class. He cofounded the Ad Program at TU, assembling a team of adjunct instructors featuring top creative minds in Tulsa. The program offers classes across the integrated marketing communication spectrum, from advertising and public relations to broadcast production and graphic design. Under Hinkle’s guidance, TU communication students have won eight Addy Awards and 15 Citations of Excellence along with an Eddy Award and a Public Relations Society of America Silver Link accolade.
Rita Moschovidis Burke (BA ’04) took several of Hinkle’s classes during her time at TU and now works as a sales manager at Tulsa’s Channel 8. “He helped shape my understanding that building brand awareness and developing effective advertising strategies are critical aspects of running a successful business. Bill encouraged me to pursue a career in media sales and continues to be my mentor today. Throughout my 12 years in television advertising at Channel 8, not only have I had the opportunity to collaborate with him on various campaigns, I am often reminded of the important foundation he instilled in me to help businesses in our community grow,” Burke says.
He also sponsored the Hinkle Creative Center in Oliphant Hall, a renovated space more akin to an agency setting than a typical classroom. And since 2001, Hinkle has served as adviser for TU’s National Student Advertising Competition team, an event he calls the “Super Bowl of college advertising.” Universities across the country work on an advertising campaign for the same brand. For the past six years, TU students have finished in the top four at the district National Student Advertising Competition.
He plans to continue his work at Hinkle Creative Services and teaching for the foreseeable future. “I stay active in the industry because once you get out, the world just passes you by,” Hinkle says. “I plan to continue to build the program and add more classes. I love teaching. I get to be around fun, smart TU students, and the work we do in the Ad Program will keep the industry strong here in Tulsa. It’s worked out exactly as I’d hoped it would. That doesn’t happen very often.”