Let's be real. The phrase is a calling card for a generation that wants authenticity, and it's the tagline that helped the University of Nevada, Reno's Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) team win the district competition of the National Student Advertising Competition in April 2018.
This year's win marks the eighth district win since the University began competition in 2001. The University's IMC team is a collaboration between students from the Reynolds School of Journalism and marketing students from the College of Business.
Competing teams across the country were tasked with finding an innovative, and integrated, way to sell Ocean Spray products to millennials between the ages of 24 and 35. The University's IMC team reviewed the research and proposals created last fall by Reynolds School students in an advanced strategic communications course to find their answer and more specifically their audience - moms.
Their creative strategy focused on relating to the modern-day experience of millennial moms and incorporating Ocean Spray products into that experience.
"In our research, we found that a lot of companies were targeting millennial moms, but that not a lot of moms were relating to how they were being portrayed," said Kassandra Fuentes, Reynolds School senior and lead designer on the IMC presentation book. "We chose 'Let's Be Real' as our tagline because we wanted to shift away from the traditional mom image."
The resulting campaign included a book proposal, creative elements such as commercials and shareable social media gifs and a Powerpoint presented by four students on the team at the district competition in Sacramento, California.
According to longtime faculty advisor Bob Felten, the students' decision to focus on such a niche audience was both incredibly smart and a little bit risky, but he feels that it definitely made them stand out at the district level.
During their semester, students were tasked with real-world marketing challenges and were expected to create real-world solutions, all the while gaining valuable experience that to help them transition into the workforce.
"The dedication of the team members to doing excellent work is really the thing that set this class apart," Felten said. "If you're in competition, it's different and this was a competitive group - no question about it. When they talk about what they learned, they learned about teamwork, they learned about what leadership means, they learned about working with people with different strengths than they have."
The competition also offers students a unique opportunity to practice working collaboratively in a high-pressure environment. Students on the team spoke of the intensity of the class as well as the chance it gave them to learn about many areas of communications, advertising and marketing.
"I love every aspect of the agency type of team and being able to try everything. In the real world, you're going to have to kind of decide on what field you're going to want to focus on, but luckily, here you aren't trapped," Reynolds School senior and IMC presenter, Dominique DiPietro said. "You get to do a little bit of everything before you go into the real world and decide exactly what area you want to be in."
The students also learned how essential having different perspectives from marketing and strategic communications was to their success. According to DiPietro and her classmate Teresa Fahy, a senior marketing student in the College of Business, having students from another school on this project was a tremendous advantage.
"[The marketing students] really taught me to remember in the real world that you'll be working for businesses that have a bottom line and those numbers are important," DiPietro said.
"In the business school, it's more about where to place [media] and less about how to create," Fahy said. "So that was really cool and I learned a lot by being able to see the journalism students' process and how they do [create]."
For more information about the Integrated Marketing Communications competition team and the strategic communications track at the Reynolds School of Journalism, visit journalism.unr.edu.