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Dec. 16, 2010
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Giving a full-scale pitch to a group of non-profit professionals looking to reach a new target audience and boost fundraising might be a daunting task to college students.
That wasn't the case for the nine students in Northwest Missouri State University's advanced advertising strategies course, who recently presented a range of advertising, social media and promotional strategies to Hope House, a Kansas City-based non-profit that provides residential and outreach services to abuse victims.
The students, working under the company name AdStrat Solutions, spent their fall preparing for the presentation. Their pitch to 12 professionals, who included board members and marketing directors, was the culmination of a trimester-long project to create an advertising campaign for a specific client.
"At the Kansas City Ad Club's headquarters, they presented their ideas to a dozen heavy-hitting professionals who grilled them with the same questions they'd ask of any advertising agency - and the students delivered with very substantial answers," said Jacquie Lamer, instructor in Northwest's Department of Mass Communications, who teaches the course. "It was a great learning experience for them. The Hope House was just a fantastic client all around."
Launched at Northwest in 2003, advanced advertising strategies is a capstone course that integrates vast skills students learn in advertising, interactive digital media and broadcasting courses. Clients are chosen to provide real challenges to the students. Five prerequisites are required for class.
"This trimester, the students learned about more than just advertising, web and social media strategies," Lamer said. "They also had the chance to learn about domestic violence and the very real limitations facing non-profits."
The course models a real-world environment in which students work with a client to solve issues related to integrated marketing, advertising, internet publishing and promotions. Classes are run as business meetings, and students work in teams focused on research, planning and creative.
The students also benefit from opportunities to network with professionals and develop relationships that could lead to careers in the industry. Northwest alumnus Kevin Fullerton, owner of Springboard Creative advertising agency in Kansas City, Kan., serves as a consultant to the students.
AdStrat Solutions pitched two advertising campaigns to Hope House that implemented T-shirts, text-messaging, print ads and public service announcements for television and radio. Gearing their campaign to a younger demographic, the students also made recommendations related to social media strategies, search engine optimization and web usability. The team's detailed research and ideas were presented in a media plans book.
"I was amazed at how enthusiastic and involved the students were," said Lee Marlin, director of marketing for Hope House. "It let us know that our mission and this project really mattered to them. They had well-thought questions and were really prepared when we had in-person preparatory meetings."
Marlin said AdStrat Solutions' presentation was impressive and Hope House plans to implement the students' ideas for social media. Hope House also is exploring their recommendations for public service announcements and merchandise. The media contacts AdStrat Solutions provided will save Hope House at least a week's worth of work, Marlin said.
"Everyone in the room was wowed with the presentation, the content, their poise and the fact that they had answers to every question put to them," Marlin said. "They did a fantastic job. I wish we could hire every one of them."
Students say they leave the course feeling as though they've completed not just an intense, upper level college course, but a rigorous internship. To be successful, students must also build a solid group dynamic. If one person does not fulfill their responsibilities, it could affect the entire team's success.
"As stressful as it is, it's worth it in the end," said Christi Duckworth, a senior from Independence majoring in applied advertising and psychology. "It's real-world experience. You have to work with other people just like in the industry."
Dave Hardin, a senior broadcasting major from Oak Grove, added, "Being able to communicate from team to team is so important. You either do well or you do poorly. This is so hands-on and so real world."For more information about the course and a sampling of work done for previous clients go to http://advadv.blogspot.com/.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468