When 'good isn't good enough'

Journalism, business students branch out and flourish

4/18/2008 - By: Guia Del Prado
Journalism Building Journalism and business students frequently prepared for the competition after-hours in the journalism building. Photo by Crista Hecht.

UPADATED 11 a.m., April 21: The IMC competition team won first place at the regional National Student Advertising Competition in South San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, April 18. The team also received the “Best Media Plan” and Stacie Eliopulos, journalism senior and the team’s account executive, won “Best Presenter." See the full story on the Journalism Website.

The Integrated Marketing Communications competition class has a reputation on campus for being one of the toughest classes available.

With its motto “Good isn’t good enough” and workloads of 13 to 20 hours a week, it can be easy to see why. Yet even with this kind of reputation, dedicated, ambitious and creative students sign up year after year for the thrill of the win and the satisfaction of accomplishment.

On Friday, April 18, in South San Francisco, the University’s Integrated Marketing Communications competition team will go head to head with other schools in its district in the National Student Advertising Competition.

The fruit of their labors: the NSAC

The NSAC is overseen by the American Advertising Federation, drawing up to 200 university entries. It is the culmination of a yearlong process in which students researched and created an integrated marketing campaign for this year’s client, America Online (AOL).

The Integrated Marketing Communications team consists of 29 students from the Reynolds School of Journalism and the College of Business. Bourne Morris, a Reynolds School advertising professor and one of the group’s advisers, said the IMC team has been involved in the national competition for almost a decade.

“I’ve been teaching competitions since 1990, but the Nevada's involvement in the AAF competition started in 2000,” Morris said.

Since the team entered the NSAC, it has won the regional competition four times and won the national competition in 2003.

The competitive nature of the class motivates the students to produce excellent work, said Bob Felten, journalism professor and another of the class’ advisers.

“I think part of what a competition does is make you want to win by doing high-quality work,” Felten said. “These students have demonstrated a level of commitment to that ethic.”

The seeds

The IMC team is made up of students specializing in public relations, marketing, advertising and broadcasting. Together, they form an eclectic group with the depth and variety of skills necessary to create a unified marketing communication campaign.

Different groups in the class focus on several aspects of the campaign, including the public relations group, creative team and the product development unit. Planning for the IMC campaign requires students to develop a full marketing communications plan with original research and creative work, as well as public relations, media, budget and nontraditional and online segments.

The advisers, Morris, Felten and business professor Judy Strauss, will often ask questions to help students focus their thinking. The professors do not make any decisions about which solutions are best.

According to Stacie Eliopulos, the class’ account executive (the team leader), this makes their few suggestions all the more important.

“Bourne, Bob and Judy all have had such amazing experiences from their professional lives,” said Eliopulos, a 22-year-old journalism major.

The students, rather than the advisers, devise and direct their own work. “(The advisers) can’t say much, so when they do say something, everyone stops and pays attention,” said Eliopulos. “Not to listen would just be crazy. We would be throwing ourselves under a truck by not respecting their advice and questions.”

During the class, the groups reconvene and talk about their work. It is Eliopulos’ job to monitor the class as account executive. One of her responsibilities includes bringing the separate groups work back into a cohesive whole. She also has the advantage of forming unique relationships with the students in the groups because of her position.

“I challenge every team,” Eliopulos said. “There’s a fine line in that everyone needs and deserves encouragement and the chance to prove what they can do.”

Felten believes that while the competition is a big factor in the class for students, learning about how the professional advertising world works and learning about themselves is the biggest gift IMC has to offer.

“Most students would say that they learned more not just about the profession but about how they work, about themselves than in any other class they’ve taken,” Felten said. “Clearly, a competitive nature drives the pursuit of excellence here. But at the end of the day, what students learn is the single most important thing they’ll carry with them as they graduate and go their individual ways.”

The branches to the tree

And the chance to prove what they can do does not come at an easy price. Despite the length of the class, a three-hour period twice a week, it is not nearly enough time to cover the ground the team needs to make to prepare their books and their presentation. Emily Stratton, a 22-year-old public relations student in the Reynolds School, said that her group meets four or more times for about three or four hours each week.

“It’s almost like having another job,” Stratton said. “You could work up to 20 hours easily.”

A senior, she is taking only 10 credits this semester, allowing her to put all her focus on the IMC class.

Remi Warren, a 23-year-old marketing student in the College of Business, has more commitments. Not only is he part of two different groups on the team, the creative and product development teams, Warren is taking 18 credits and owns a business.

“I own Montana OutWest Outfitters,” Warren said. “It’s a hunting outfitting operation in Montana.”

During the week of regional competitions, the presentation team worked overtime.

“The presentation team has been working over 12 hours a day on the weekends and six to 10 hours a day during the week,” Warren said. “IMC will become your life, but the experience is worth it.”

The most unique feature of the IMC class is the union of the marketing students with journalism students. Strauss believes the combination of marketing and journalism students benefits both parties as well as the common goal of the team.

“They work together well and I find that they draw out the best in each other,” Strauss said. “For example, our marketing students become more creative by working with the ‘J’ students. I also think the ‘J’ students learn more about primary research to understand markets and metrics for measuring campaign success.”

Warren also believes the students’ different skills help contribute to a formula for victory.

“We’re a team of people with exceptional skills,” Warren said. “The skill level is so high in this class that we have a really good chance of winning. I would bet on it.”

Indeed, the team has set its sights on taking the competition. The competitive and ambitious environment in the class motivates students to contribute only excellent work to the creative center on which their campaign is built. Eliopulos sees the importance of the different teams in contributing their specialized work to the campaign.

“Every component of every team is so important to the whole,” she said. “Without the groups, it would be like having a tree without its branches. You would just have a dead trunk.”


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