Purdue Calumet students place third in regional student advertising competition

A team of Purdue University Calumet students won third place in the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) regional district this spring.

The 20 juniors and seniors developed an ad campaign for The Century Council that aims to combat binge drinking among college students as part of their Advertising Campaigns class, an interdisciplinary course offered through the schools of Management and Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

The students presented their project to a panel of professional advertising judges during the NSAC competition in Southfield, Mich., in April. They competed against eight other schools in one of the two parts of District 6 of what is considered the “World Series” of college advertising.

“We are very proud of our students and their efforts. This is the highest Purdue Calumet has ever placed in this prestigious advertising competition,” said Mary Beth O’Connor, associate professor of Radio, TV and Advertising.

O’Connor and Professor Hugh Daubek consulted with the students during the course, which was taught by adjunct faculty member Matthew Hanson. The class and the contest demonstrate the value of Purdue Calumet’s focus on experiential learning, O’Connor noted.

“This project provides a real-world experience that integrates all previous lectures into a four-month project that is fast-paced, thorough, and rewarding both educationally as well as professionally,” Hanson said. “Every student I’ve known who has presented their plans book during an interview has received the job.”

The plans book is part of each student’s work product in developing the ad campaign and is presented to the client.

Each year, a corporate sponsor provides an assignment or case study to the NSAC outlining the history of its product and current advertising situation. This year’s sponsor, The Century Council, is a not-for-profit organization that fights against drunk driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible decision-making regarding alcoholic beverages.

Through research, the Purdue Calumet advertising students identified that college students have an “it can’t happen to me” mentality. They further found that statistics about alcohol use were similar to statistics regarding other drugs.

The class identified six distinct “stops” that, when experienced personally or by family members or friends while drinking alcohol, would make college students seriously reconsider their drinking behaviors. The six stops included: arrest; injury; drunk driving effects; death; sexual assault; and suicide.

Based on these stops and the statistics for the number of college students who experience these issues on a daily basis, the team developed a campaign themed “Will TOD choose you?” TOD stands for The Other Drug, which is quickly connected to alcohol by the campaign media.

The team developed a completely non-traditional approach to their ad campaign, incorporating “TOD” decisions into areas where students come in contact with alcohol on a regular basis. They used QR Codes, which can be read by many cell phones, and text messages to drive traffic to a Web site, www.willtodchooseyou.com, to reach their target audience.

O’Connor said the students’ non-traditional approach, as well as the amount of research and preparation they put into the campaign, impressed the professional advertising executives who judged the competition. The experience of presenting to those judges gives the Purdue Calumet students a competitive edge as they look for jobs.

“This is their ticket into the business. In this economy, you need everything you can get,” O’Connor said. “We’re very focused on making sure that our students have a quality employment opportunity when they leave the university. They are prepared not just with the knowledge they need, but with the behaviors, the critical thinking skills and the people skills that are crucial.”