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April 15, 2009
By Skyler Dillon
Most students would not be willing to put 10 hours into a class per week, let alone 20. But University of Nevada, Reno marketing professor Judy Strauss said the Integrated Marketing Communications competitors in her IMC class are not most students.
In the course, requiring professional-level commitment from a mixture of marketing and journalism majors, students work all semester on an entry for the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition. The district competition for the annual national event is Friday, April 17 at Cal-Berkeley.
The University students will compete against students from other schools to see who can create the best marketing campaign for a national client. This year, the Nevada team will develop a plan for The Century Council, a nonprofit Arlington, Va.-based organization seeking to reduce underage drinking and drunk driving.
According to Strauss, who co-teaches with journalism professors Bob Felten and Bourne Morris, the client’s problem is never a simple one to solve. “If it were easy, they wouldn’t be coming to us,” she explained. “Our students are very smart and very motivated, and do an enormous amount of work.”
Students must prepare several components of the presentation for the competition: a plan book describing the students’ strategy and creative work for the campaign (that was due March 30), an oral presentation for judges at the district/regional level April 17 at Berkeley, and completion of a question-and-answer session with judges following the presentation. If the students succeed at districts, they will proceed to the national level in Washington, D.C. June 4. Reaching nationals would not be a first for the class members.
“We’ve been seventh, sixth, even first before in the country among nearly 200 universities (Nevada won nationals in 2003),” said Strauss. “And this year, the team has a very creative idea that’s very different from what they’ve done in the past. Also, the students don’t use traditional media very much—it is more internet based. I think that will be an advantage.”
Molly Christensen, one of the competitors for the University, said one reason for the class’ success is its combination of marketing and journalism students.
“It’s helpful to have so many different points of view,” the senior marketing major said. “That’s the fun part: coming up with creative ideas together.”
Strauss, who helped lead the University to district championships in 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008, agrees. “It’s like having the left and right brains meet,” she said. “Marketing students are more quantitative while the journalism students are more qualitative and creative. The result is a success explosion.”
Strauss says the different perspectives the class generates are one of the main rewards students receive, along with the experience of integrating everything they have learned in their major thus far. The class prompts independent learning.
“We don’t force them to be this dedicated,” she said. “But they are perfectionists. They changed the book up to the very last minute, making it better. And the result is that sweat, tears and blood fall out of it from all their hard work, and they win.”
Christensen says she is glad she took the class despite the large workload. “It’s a lot of work, but when it’s over, it’s worth it,” she said.