As a Ph.D. student here in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, I was uncertain exactly what to think fall 2009 when I was asked if I would be willing to help manage a grant-funded project to implement and evaluate an advertising campaign designed by undergraduates.
I have had some professional experience as an account executive in advertising and public relations before starting graduate school, but managing an entire campaign was something I'd never done.
Workers from the University of Minnesota install "sidewalk clings" around campus to promote responsible drinking. The tactic was one of many employed by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication's National Student Advertising Competition team for "The Other Hangover" campaign.
When I first saw the materials for "The Other Hangover" campaign, created by the U's 2009 National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) team, I was impressed by how savvy and professional the advertisements were. Clearly, a ton of research and effort had gone into the development of the campaign strategy.
Knowing I would need lots of help, I recruited fellow graduate student Michelle Gross to be a project co-adviser. As an undergrad, Michelle had been part of the original NSAC team that developed the campaign. Michelle's background knowledge and excellent organizational skills frequently proved invaluable. To staff the project, Michelle and I adopted the mentality that we were creating a small start-up advertising agency within the SJMC.
Serving as "management," we solicited and accepted applications from undergraduate students interested in working on the campaign and held interviews. In the end, we had eight dedicated students who completed a one-credit summer internship-style course, working on various elements of the campaign, ranging from graphic design and website creation to coordinating printing orders with vendors to negotiating media buys for advertising space.
When the team faced a challenge, I would emphasize how similar these types of issues were to those encountered daily within a professional agency. I also stressed that the project would provide them with useful experience for entering the job market.
I know working with the students in implementing the campaign was a great teaching opportunity and learning experience for me. I gained new insights into motivating students, and learned about the benefits and pitfalls of managing an unstructured, project-focused course.
Seeing the various elements of the project appear on campus this past semester was extremely gratifying, and all of the students who had been involved from both 2009 and 2010 were excited to see their hard work on display in front of their peers and the university community.
The Other Hangover campaign received great feedback from students and the strong support of university administrators, who saw the value of an anti-binge drinking campaign that could resonate with a campus population, since students themselves designed it.
As we gather and analyze survey data related to the campaign, we'll learn whether it was successful in shifting student attitudes about the risks of binge drinking. I think everyone on the team would agree that while it was often a challenge, The Other Hangover campaign was a unique and great experience to be a part of.
-- Nathan Gilkerson