Presenting a semester's worth of work in front of your professor and classmates is stressful enough, but add in a real client and it's a different ball game entirely. That's exactly what students faced in Assistant Professor Cristel Russell's Advertising and Promotion Campaigns class.
Student teams worked with one of two clients—the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) or media start-up SocialRadar—to develop a strategic campaign designed to meet the client's needs.
"I think it was a really great experience for the students to work with real clients on a real campaign. There's so much more to learn than what can just be read in textbooks," said Russell.
For SocialRadar, teams worked to develop a traditional launch campaign of a new smartphone app. But for CSPI, the challenge was to develop a campaign to encourage consumers to demand less marketing of unhealthy foods aimed at children.
Working on the same project throughout the semester gave students the opportunity to tie together principles learned across the marketing curriculum, according to Russell. Despite seeming like apples and oranges on the surface, marketing an idea versus a traditional product required the same steps in the end.
"Some of the students struggled a bit in the beginning…but once they realized the same principles applied, you could really see the lights in their eyes as they started coming up with ideas."
More Than Homework
From the student perspective, they were able to take away even more from Russell's class—now they have tangible evidence of their abilities.
"It was incredible to have a real client and do real work, not just deal in hypotheticals," said Kristianna George, BSBA '13. "It's been really helpful when I've applied to jobs because I have this project to hand over and say 'Here, I did this,' and it's exactly what I gave [my client.]"
Working with real clients also allowed students to overcome difficulties that may not be covered in a textbook.
"We definitely had struggles, but really learned what the [campaign presentation] process can really be like," said Kurtis Gobencion, BSBA '13. "There was more pressure because we had a real client, our materials had to be professional, we couldn't just say 'Good enough.'"
Students may have been producing the work, but the final campaigns presented were anything but student quality, according to the clients.
"Everything I saw was top-notch," said Michael Chasen, CAS '94, and CEO of SocialRadar. "I couldn't have gotten better results going to an outside contractor."
Chasen, who has worked with several schools in the area, enjoys engaging with his alma mater and hopes to continue to work with Kogod in the future.
"I found the students to be very entrepreneurial. It was obvious they inherently understood the online media world, and they really stood out among schools I've worked with."
Lindsay Vickroy, nutrition policy coordinator for CSPI, echoed Chasen's positive experience.
"It was obvious to me that the students were very committed to the project and worked diligently to provide us with a product that would work," she said. "I know it wasn't easy to develop a campaign to market an idea instead of a product, but they really rose to the challenge."