When it comes to the American Advertising Association’s (AAF) National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC), there’s a lot of secrecy. Teams are given numbers rather than names and must remain anonymous, and their campaign details cannot be revealed until the conclusion of the NSAC in June. However, without giving away too many details, students shared what it’s been like to spend the last eight months preparing an advertising campaign worthy of competition. And, strangely, it involved eating a lot of hot dogs.
PRESENTERS BIANCA CARANGELO ’19, MICHAELA DOONAN ’19, SYDNEY GRAY ’19, AND EMMA RUBEN ’19.
Their campaign for Wienerschnitzel, a hot dog restaurant chain, brought them to victory in the District round, where they competed against five other colleges in the region on April 12, followed by another win in the semifinals on May 8. Now, as the team waits and prepares for the national competition in Hollywood, Florida, they’ve also taken time to reflect on the hard work it took to build the campaign and make it over the hurdles of competition.
Of course, the process for creating the campaign began with a ton of research. “This year we completed over 1,550 surveys, 843 concepts tests, 170 Facebook posts, 162 blog posts, 138 secondary sources, and 137 taste tests,” revealed Bianca Carangelo ’19, who serves as a researcher, strategist and presenter for the team. “Our team never makes decisions unless they are driven by research and thus proven to make sense with the target to accomplish the overall campaign goal. The entirety of our strategy is built on four months of researching and concept testing.”
As a strategist, it’s important to not stop at the first good idea.”
From the research, a strategy was born. “We have had countless strategies and ideas,” said Michaela Doonan ’19, who also serves as a researcher, strategist and presenter on the team. “But, when we ultimately decided, it just clicked. Everyone on the team kind of knew that this was it — this was the big idea that would drive our campaign. The process of getting to that point seemed neverending. We were never completely satisfied with an idea or strategy. As a strategist, it’s important to not stop at the first good idea, because there’s usually always something bigger and better that we haven’t thought of yet.”
MANAL JAKHAR ’19 CELEBRATES WITH THE WINNER'S PLAQUE.
With a strategy in place, the media planning, art design and assembling of the plan book began. “This role entails a lot of communication and imagination,” said Manal Jakhar ’19 of her role in art direction and production. “The first half of ADTEAM season is spent sitting with other team strategists, copywriters and designers learning about the target and the product. From there, it’s all about setting key design and visual elements that go along with our messaging strategy. That’s where the creativity kicks in! The key skill is to be able to solve communication problems visually. There’s planning, sketching, storyboarding and pre-production — it’s a lot of editing.”
Then, there’s the culmination of it all — the presentation. Along with Doonan and Carangelo, Emma Ruben ’19 and Sydney Gray ’19 took the stage in Pepsi Forum to present the campaign in the District round. “Our whole 20-person team was counting on the four of us to effectively tell the story of the campaign that we spent months working on. That’s a lot of pressure,” said Carangelo. She admitted that she couldn’t even eat the morning of the presentation because she was so nervous — they all were. But, you would never know it listening to their confident voices echo through the room as they entertained the crowd with witty banter and seamless transitions from speaker to speaker. This incredible on-stage chemistry came from countless hours of rehearsing — from the moment they received their presentation scripts right up until moments before the presentation.
“There were about two weeks between receiving the script and presenting on stage,” recalls Doonan. “I practiced my lines in the shower, when I was going to bed and even walking to the mall. Basically, any time I could practice, I did.” Doonan and Carangelo are also roommates, so they often practiced together. “We would run through our parts while cleaning, cooking, doing homework, walking to class, before bed — basically nonstop until the day of the competition,” said Carangelo.
PRESENTER SYDNEY GRAY ’19 IS ALL SMILES AFTER THE VICTORY.
If this is the future of advertising, then we are golden.”
Practicing every chance they got certainly paid off, as their presentation impressed the judges and earned them first place in April. One of the judges was Lindsay Cardinale, a strategy director of MullenLowe U.S. “If this is the future of advertising, then we are golden,” she said after the presentation.
That was just one of the many highlights of the day, the biggest being the moment the team was told they had won. “We always make sure we are together,” said Jakhar, who has been a part of the ADTEAM for several years now and has experienced winning before. “Once the second-place winner was announced, we all gripped hands, looked down and closed our eyes out of the anxiousness of hearing our school name called. Once it was, it was like a perfect slo-mo moment in a movie where we’re all jumping, screaming and probably tearing up from joy — eight months of work is no joke!”
Associate Professors Christine Ure and Oscar Chilabato, the faculty advisors for the ADTEAM, were there to watch their team win another District round. They’ve had a lot of success with the team over the years, but believe the secret to that success is quite simple.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OSCAR CHILABATO, BIANCA CARANGELO ’19, MICHAELA DOONAN ’19, AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR CHRISTINE URE.
We have talented students willing to put in the time, constantly reassess their work, and make hard decisions.”
For the team, having mentors like Ure and Chilabato have given them an experience they would never get elsewhere. “Their leadership plays a huge role in our success," says Erik Lindaas ’19, who is a researcher and media planner on the team. “They run the team like an actual agency and inspire us to make sure we are putting out our best product.”
Clearly, they have inspired their students to produce the best, because the team has once again moved on to the national competition, where the top 8 teams in the nation will compete for the prestigious top prize. Good luck, Wildcats!
BELOW, LEFT-RIGHT: DONOVAN KELLY ’19, ERIK LINDAAS ’19, SHANE SUKHAL ’22, ANDREW BADWAY ’20 AND ANDREW THOMPSON ’20.