The Road to a 4th-place NSAC Award

By: Andrea Larson (@andrea_larson_)

Gaining real world experience while enrolled in college gives students a way to stand out and the opportunity to see what life is like in the field they are studying.

Journalism 424, Strategic Campaigns in Advertising, offers that to journalism students. The students work during much of the spring semester creating an advertising campaign for a client, as if they were part of an actual advertising company. The class then competes in the American Advertising Federation’s  National Student Advertising competition (NSAC).

NSAC is an annual competition that provides a case study outlining the history of the company and its products, and a current advertising situation. The case study reflects a real situation to challenge students’ critical thinking abilities and creativity. The students research the product and its competition, identify potential problems, and develop an integrated communications campaign for the client. Each student team then “pitches” its campaign to a panel of judges.

This year’s client, Mary Kay cosmetics, challenged students to create a campaign strategy to reposition Mary Kay’s target audience to a younger demographic.

Journalism 424 students often take the Research in Strategic Communication class, Journalism 472, first, during the fall semester, where the problem is defined and research is conducted. This year students used an online survey and a focus group, one of the students and one of the Mary Kay independent beauty consultants, to gather primary research.

I interviewed four students from the campaigns class who also presented at the competition: Kaila Kissinger, Calli Hoyt, Phil Aiello and Mattie Eslinger. They shared with me the ups and downs of putting together a full-fledged ad campaign.

“With our research, we targeted the millennial generation. We nicknamed them the ‘all about me generation,’ “ Aiello said. “In addition to Mary Kay’s mission to encourage beauty and self-confidence, we came up with a campaign that encouraged consumers to catch a glimpse of themselves, in hopes they would find something deeper.”

“Check yourself out” was chosen as the campaign idea. It stood out to the team for several reasons: it went along with the research, focused on a woman’s personal journey through life, and, my favorite, it was a positive spin of the team’s finding that the millennials, the target market, where into themselves.

“The walls were literally covered with possibilities,” Hoyt said. “I think someone just threw out the idea of check yourself out and we all really liked the boldness and forwardness of that.”

Eslinger said: “We knew that the idea we chose had to relate to women in every stage in their demographic. Everyone checks themselves out, it’s just a natural thing to do.”

Kissinger added: “There was a period of about a week where we were all just coming up with these crazy ideas. At the end we all narrowed it down to our favorites and eventually picked that one. It began as ‘It’s OK to check yourself out’ but we managed to shorten it and re-work it to really fit and develop our campaign from it.”

UW Oshkosh was among a competitive district made up of ten schools from Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. The team of 14 students took fourth in District 8, the only team in Wisconsin to compete in this year’s competition.

“My favorite part of the campaign process was the ability to develop a well-rounded campaign from scratch,” Aiello said. “The hardest part was working within the 6-7 week time frame. Some of our competition had up to a year to develop their strategies.”

Journalism 424 gives students real world experience they can proudly put in a portfolio. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and take on new opportunities, like presenting in front of an audience and a panel of judges.

“The presenting team rode to Minneapolis together and the entire four hours we were rehearsing,” Kissinger said. “Even up to the night before the presentation day we did a run-through with the rest of the class and we were HORRIBLE. We eventually pulled it together and we rocked the actual presentation.”

“It was such a rewarding experience to stand in front of an auditorium full of people and present a project that we had put so much work into and had been working on for so long,” she said.

Congratulations to the 2014 NSAC team for its hard work and amazing achievement.




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