By Peggy J. Rader
An SJMC student ad campaign hones in on the social cost of binge drinking
Michelle Gross doesn't remember the exact details, but the School of Journalism and Mass Communication graduate student knows there was an electric moment when someone said, "That's it! The other hangover!"
The SJMC's 2009 campaign entry for the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) was starting to come together after months of research, surveys and focus groups, but did not yet have its hook. The NSAC client, The Century Council, wanted an anti-binge drinking campaign aimed at college students.
Everyone on the student team, including Gross, had been using "the other hangover" as a shorthand phrase reflecting that their research found students aren't deterred by the idea that heavy drinking can lead to a physical hangover but also really don't like the idea that heavy drinking could have a social cost—another kind of "hangover."
Once they realized their shorthand was the hook, The Other Hangover campaign found its focus. Last fall, the campaign became reality and proceeded to sweep through the University of Minnesota campus as an actual campaign against binge drinking.
When The Other Hangover was submitted as a NSAC entry, it went all the way to national finals but lost out on an award because of technicalities during the presentation. But it earned recognition more impressive than a trophy when The Century Council contacted the university in late 2009 with the offer of a $75,000 grant to develop and implement the proposed campaign for the university's Twin Cities campus.
Student models—including NSAC members Laura Rask, Lauren Fink and Fiona Severson—pose for photographs shot by NSAC's creative director, Lauren Sudbrink. The photos ran in promotional materials ranging from bus shelter ads and billboards to smaller posters and bar coasters. Photo by Michelle Gross.
While evaluation on the effectiveness of this innovative, "disruptive" ad campaign won't be completed until late winter, all indications are that the focus has found its mark. It created such a buzz on campus that the campaign team was dealing with disappearing collateral that, according to anecdotal reports, was ending up on apartment and dorm room walls.
The campaign launched in September 2010 and immediately began to garner local media attention that spread to national media coverage. The campaign used a billboard in Stadium Village, bus stop ads, sidewalk clings, mirror clings for public bathrooms and dormitories, giveaways at football games, newspaper ads and even coasters for local bars and restaurants. In addition, a vigorous social media campaign played out on Facebook.
The billboard featured a man with a pitcher of beer in one hand, grabbing for a woman with the other. Disgust is clear on the woman's face. "Before you got wasted you weren't known as The Creep," the billboard message read. "Humiliation: The Other Hangover." In a similar vein, one of the posters showed a woman who clearly has had too much to drink slumped on the floor as a party goes on around her. The headline read: "A few drinks before, they thought you were fabulous. Shame: The Other Hangover."
When the ads were tested with focus groups, 91 percent agreed that the message was more "relatable" than other ads promoting responsible drinking, and 89 percent agreed the campaign was better designed for college students than other messages. Almost 80 percent said they think less of people who display negative behaviors because of excessive drinking.
The concept was born from the thorough marketing research by the NSAC team that took much of the academic year. What the team discovered was that previous public service campaigns aimed at college-age drinkers were missing the mark -- either because they warned against the physical impacts of drunkenness that were easy to brush off by 20-somethings or they focused on extreme consequences that students thought seemed unlikely to occur.
"The Other Hangover is a unique public service campaign for two reasons," says Nathan Gilkerson, a Ph.D. student in mass communication who, along with Gross, led the implementation team of eight undergraduates. "First, it is a student-driven campaign, and second, it was a completely different approach to reducing binge drinking. Students see it as honest. It's supposed to trigger self-reflection."
Gross, now an M.A. student in mass communication, is the only one from the original team to continue her involvement through the campaign's implementation last fall, mainly because other members of the team graduated and left campus. She found it rewarding to see the campaign come full circle.
"It was great to have been in on it at the beginning and then to help with the launch and the evaluation," she says. "It's been an excellent experience. It's also been great because we have received overwhelming support from the university administration and the faculty."
The students on the implementation team earned one credit for their work as part of a summer internship course.
Two of the undergrad students who were involved said that everyone who helped pull the campaign together feels like it's going to be an important part of their portfolios. Dan Lans decided to get involved because of his interest in public health and a desire to see how an ad campaign involving public health issues would work.
"The biggest thing I learned is how organized you have to be to make everything work," he says. "This was a first time for everybody, and a lot of the time we were just scrambling to get things done. It was a lot of responsibility."
Lauren Fink, another undergrad involved in launching the campaign, wanted the opportunity to make a theoretical student campaign into reality. "I knew that the internship would provide invaluable real-world experience that classes could not match," she says. The opportunity, she says, "came with far more responsibility than I would have ever been given as an intern at an advertising agency. I am so proud to have helped such a great campaign come to life."
"I just want to say that the 2009 NSAC team did a great job with the project and coming up with the strategy and concept for the campaign. Our group carried out the campaign on their behalf. It's really cool to see the work out there and have people comment on it. One of my friend's Facebook profiles quoted The Other Hangover, and I saw some other people admiring our bus shelter ads. That's probably the part I enjoy the most -- sitting back and watching people react to the campaign."
Undergraduate student Serena Maruko admires a campaign poster as launch team members Daniel Lans and Zach Stern look on at the fall 2010 Gopherfest on Northrup Mall. Photo by Michelle Gross
A student picks up one of the posters created by The Other Hangover's campaign team during Gopherfest. Members of the University of Minnesota's National Student Advertising Competition team said posters placed around campus disappeared, possibly indicating the popularity of the campaign and how well it resonated with the university community. Photo by Michelle Gross
The Other Hangover: The Teams
Nathan Gilkerson, graduate instructor and project adviser Michelle Gross, graduate student and project co-adviser
The Launch Leam
- Rachel Armstrong
- Lauren Fink
- Hope Horstmann
- Daniel Lans
- Laura Rask
- Fiona Severson
- Zach Stern
- James Wakely
University of Minnesota 2008-2009 NSAC team
- Adviser: Howard Liszt
- Erin Lamberty
- Jeanine Lilke
- Danielle Ouellette
2008-2009 NSAC Team Members
- Jake Achterhoff
- Stephanie Bakkum
- Rochelle Berentson
- Brian Bernier
- Kellie Coit
- Daniel Paul Davis
- Alex DeNuccio
- Alyssa Diamond
- Jessi Eikos
- Sarah Eslyn
- Abby Faust
- Susan Garcia (leader)
- Michelle Gross
- Jim Hagen
- Tanner Hall
- Meredith Harper
- Hillary Heinz
- Becky Hirn
- Alicia Houselog (leader)
- Robyn Kennedy
- Olga Lobasenko
- Corinne Long
- Russell Mantione
- Joe Mischo
- Christina Newman
- Shaina Novotny
- Sarah Poluha
- Alex Regner
- Lauren Sudbrink (leader)