Reynolds Students participate in national advertising competition – gain incredible real-world skills
The National Student Advertising Competition isn’t just a competition. It’s a career-making opportunity for students. Graduates who participated in the Student Advertising competition have gone on to work at top ad agencies in the region and beyond. The journalism school has placed in the top ten for several years, and won nationally in 2003. This year, the Reynolds team placed second at the district level.
James Rutter, a RSJ senior, says this competition is one of the reasons he came here. He knew he wanted to be in advertising and discovered the competition while researching universities.
“…And I said ‘that’s where I want to go.’ I want to go somewhere where they really have a passion for [advertising], where you’re going to go and people are going to love it as much as you do.”
Every year, strategic communications and business students team up to research, create and pitch an advertising campaign to a national brand. This year, 15 Reynolds students designed a marketing plan for Tai Pei, a brand of frozen entrees. The students developed slogans and creative concepts over the course of a year, pending time to market test their concepts with real focus groups from the target market (which was young millennials, ages 18-25).
More than 170 colleges compete nationally. The American Advertising Federation created the NSAC to give students to apply their skills in the best way possible: with a real client. Teams are given a brief or case study that demonstrates a marketing challenge.The idea is to get students practicing their skills in a real-world setting.
Reynolds Instructor Bob Felten says this is what makes the competition an incredible opportunity.
“It’s a capstone experience for someone looking to work in the industry,” he said. “Students selected are having easily the equivalent of a year’s worth of experience.”
Felten is the academic adviser for the team. Students are expected to compile written plans book outlining the goals of the campaign and how to accomplish them. This includes researching the client’s audience, and measuring how often people engage with a brand on social media.They must also propose a limited advertising budget that includes boosting social media posts and promoting content. Staying within the parameters set by the client is just one more challenge students have to work through.
Rutter, who helped lead the creative team, said the challenge was getting people to emotionally connect with frozen meals.
“We look at what client is asking and what research says and then we try to come up with creative idea. So basically the theme of the campaign, that’s what we work on,” Rutter said.
Rutter admitted marketing frozen food isn’t exactly sexy, but the experience taught him how to work around creative block.
“Just having faith that if you keep looking at the case, if you keep trying different things[creativity] will come.”
Several members on the team are graduating in May, and getting national exposure from NSAC means those students are one step closer to nailing down top agency jobs.
“I feel good about the future, and I don’t think I would be where I’m at with the future in front of me that I have if it had not been for the ‘j-school and for this competition,” Rutter said.