Today marks the one-week anniversary of the District 8 National Student Advertising Competition, in which the SDSU Campaigns class, as well as six other schools, participated in. The experience was a humbling, yet uplifting one for all of us. Our class had never invested so much blood, sweat and tears into anything in our entire lives, (if I had to speculate) and here we were: putting our campaign, our baby, out in front of six other schools and five judges, terrified and excited for their reactions.
The outcome was more than any of us expected. But before I dive into all of that, I have to set the scene.
September 2010: half of what would eventually become the IMC Campaigns class sat through the beginnings of the campaign. the research phase. We spent tireless hours pouring over data, researching trends, reading about the competition, auditing social media and essentially learning anything and everything we could about retail shopping and women 25-34. At this point, most of us would have loved to never see anything about JCPenney ever again. But we also had yet to see what all of our hard work was going towards.
This brings us to second semester. January 2011. After a month-long break from jcp, we had a fresh outlook on the campaign. We were feeling confident in our ability to create an entirely new campaign for the retail outlet, and maybe even head to NSAC nationals in sunny San Diego. Turns out, that positive outlook we had didn’t last long. Throughout the semester we hit stark amounts of roadblocks. Everything we would do would be met with a press release from jcp, announcing the very same plans we had just come up with. We were beginning to suspect espionage. Surely, someone had tapped our classroom and was stealing our ideas. All was beginning to look hopeless. After our return from Spring Break, there was a guilty feel to the air. We knew we hadn’t worked as hard as we could have. We had three weeks to create our 36-page book, from A-Z, including an executive summary to a campaign evaluation and everything in between. Our advisor grimly informed us that we were rather far behind compared to classes from previous years. She gave us an ultimatum, essentially. Either we bust out a campaign, FAST, or we drop out. We only considered dropping out for a few seconds, before deciding to devote our lives for the next three weeks to this campaign. And when I say devote our lives, I mean we pretty much had lodging accommodations set up in Yeager Hall where we all gathered to work. Many 14-hour days/nights were put in on top of work and other classes. In the end, we created a beautiful campaign and book for JCPenney.
After all of our work, we were ready to write the presentation. Our wonderful presentation team spent the next two weeks together, writing and rehearsing their speech. The presentation was 20 minutes long and included a Keynote presentation. There were a couple of dress rehearsals, but the day of the actual presentation was THE best run-through they had ever had. And it paid off.
At the awards banquet, no one could really eat all of their meals (aside from the fact the chicken was almost cooked to the point of dust) due to nerves. At least I couldn’t. We could not bear the wait any longer. The speeches seemed to take far too long, but at last, it was time. The first awards were given out by Olson, the ad agency in Minneapolis. We won best creative strategy and best PR strategy. We followed those awards up with BEST female presenter (Erin Kennedy) and runner-up for best male presenter (Brandon DeBoer).
Then, it was the moment of truth. Placing.
4th place went to NDSU.
3rd place, St. Cloud Tech.
2nd place, SDSU.
1st place, MSUM.
We were ecstatic to win second place. Moorhead had an impressive, and very risky campaign. We were happy for them. And we were so happy to see all of our hard work actually pay off. None of us expected to do so well.
We later found out we lost by less than one point. It made us feel great knowing it was that hard for the judges to pick 1st and 2nd places. Our self-esteem soared after taking quite the beating during the semester! And the book that three of us girls worked so hard on, was the best book out of all the others at that competition.
After two semesters of researching and compiling a campaign as extensive as this one, I’ve come to realize, I love what I do. I love the long nights, the deadlines and the fast pace of this industry. I may hate everything at the time, but watching the outcome of the campaign, and seeing your hard work is absolutely a rewarding experience. Research and Campaigns were by far the most valuable classes I have ever taken. They have really shown all of us what we can do individually, as well as in a group. And as our semester winds to a close, I know all 21 of us will remember each other, the competition and the emotions from NSAC 2011. Go SDSU!