Final Project Provides Journalism Students With Real-World Advertising Skills

By Ian Arthur


Many great classes are offered to journalism students at UW Oshkosh. One of these classes is J351: Advertising Copy, Layout and Production. It is required for journalism students pursuing the advertising emphasis and teaches skills involved in the advertising industry. This semester, Dana Baumgart’s class has a final project that is putting these skills to work with a real client and with help from alumnus David Rathsack.


The class of nine students is divided into two teams. Each team creates its own agency with its own name. The teams have to identify an account manager, creative director, copywriter and art director on the team. The two groups are then given an advertising problem based on a similar situation Rathsack faced in his job as account executive at Bader Rutter & Associates.

Baumgart reached out to Rathsack, who graduated in 2011 from UW Oshkosh where he majored in business. “I realized historically we had worked with Bader Rutter, and realized a former student was working for them,” Baumgart said, “so I asked him if he had any ideas for a project.” Over the summer the two worked together to develop the project.

David Rathsack
David Rathsack

“This project provides a real-world situation for any student interested in pursuing a career in advertising,” Rathsack said. He also said that his journalism courses at UW Oshkosh helped him in his career. “Knowing how to properly convey a message without evoking the wrong emotion or implying the wrong expectation is crucial in order to be successful in my job.”

The project has students working for the company Sauder Furniture. Sauder Furniture makes ready-to-assemble furniture similar to companies like IKEA. The company has traditionally made furniture for its own line as well as department stores; therefore, consumers often don’t notice that Sauder Furniture manufactured it. The students need to figure out how to make Sauder a stronger brand.

To improve the strength of Sauder’s brand, the students go through a four-step process similar to a real ad agency. First, they write an integrated marketing activation plan, based on research and insights. Next they have to create a buyer persona using information from their Skype sessions with Rathsack. Students then create three marketing and communication tactics. Finally, they have to show their thought process through sketches, storyboards, and other ideas. Through this process they try to position Sauder Furniture as an affordable and valuable product for the millennial.

When asked about the project, student Jake Spence said, “The whole thing is challenging for the most part because there is a lot of work and now it’s coming down to the end of the semester and we’re all trying hard to get it done.” Spence also said it was nice to work for a real company.

On Dec.10, the two groups will present their plans to Baumgart and Rathsack with a well-rehearsed pitch, just like they would have to do at a real advertising job. One of the two teams will have its plan chosen as the winner. Regardless of who wins, the project will have allowed students to gain valuable experience and knowledge of how to create an advertising plan in the real world. It is another example of the learning experiences offered through the journalism department.

What were some of your favorite classes you took in the journalism department?


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