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Feature

The U's 26-member team that competed at the National Student Advertising Competition

The University of Minnesota team--comprising 26 seniors and juniors--at the National Student Advertising Competition in San Francisco. (Faculty adviser Howard Liszt is standing on the far right.)

A successful campaign

U's student advertising team finishes third in the nation

By Pauline Oo

June 20, 2006

Every year since 2001, a team from the University of Minnesota has made it to the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC), the premier competition for college and university advertising students in the United States. Quite a feat, since the University of Minnesota is the only school in the country to achieve this.

This year, out of the 215 schools that were part of the competition, the U placed third. (In 2002, another team from the University also took third spot.)

As the 2006 NSAC sponsor, Dallas-based Postal Vault challenged more than 6,500 students across the nation to develop a memorable campaign for one of its new products. (Past sponsors or competition clients have included Yahoo!, Toyota, Pizza Hut, The New York Times, and Bank of America.) Postal Vault, which manufactures and distributes mailboxes and delivery receptacles to protect and secure mail and parcel packages, provided each team with a case study that outlined the history of the product and its current advertising situation. The teams then had to devise an integrated communications campaign for the company. The competition, hosted by the American Advertising Federation (AAF), was held in San Francisco on June 11-12 during the AAF's annual convention.

The University of Minnesota team--led by Shannon Brown, Nicole Brubaker, Kathryn Dudkiewicz, and Heidi Keel--comprised 26 juniors and seniors enrolled at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) in the College of Liberal Arts. After weeks of extensive research and testing, the team came up with its "Protect. Prevent. Peace of Mind." campaign. However, the University of Virginia snatched top spot and Webster University took second place. The Art Center Design College, Albuquerque, placed fourth. Judges included representatives from Postal Vault and leading advertising companies.

"The top four schools finished very close in the scoring," says faculty adviser Howard Liszt, a senior fellow in the SJMC and retired CEO of the Campbell Mithun advertising agency in Minneapolis. "Our students did a brilliant job both presenting and fielding questions. I couldn't be prouder of all of them."

The University of Minnesota team will pass on its winnings ($2,000) to next year's team to help offset the production costs that will be incurred throughout the year, says team leader Brown. She and her teammates earned the opportunity to compete in San Francisco after placing first at the regional competition in April.

Team leaders Kathryn Dudkiewicz, Shannon Brown, Heidi Keel, and Nicole Brubaker.
Team leaders Kathryn Dudkiewicz, Shannon Brown, Heidi Keel, and Nicole Brubaker.

The competition was never about the money, says Brown. "We did it for the sheer love of the game." The U's NSAC team is considered a student organization within SJMC; hence, participation is strictly extra curricular and on a volunteer basis.

"Other schools run this competition as a class that is only open to seniors," explains Brown. "We like to make it available to anyone who wants to participate. This way we get those people who are truly dedicated to NSAC. The slackers weed themselves out. Each year, leaders for the next year are chosen from the juniors who participated the year before. This helps give the next year's team a stronger base to grow from."

According to the NSAC Web site, more than 80,000 students have participated in the competition and it has also become popular with ad industry recruiters who are seeking new talent.

"This [third-place finish] means a great deal to me," says Brown, who recently graduated and hopes to become a creative director for an advertising agency. "All the hard work that went into the creation and presentation of our campaign was well worth it. I've been told that the harder you work for something the more rewarding it is in the end. It's true. I've almost forgotten all of the sleepless nights and stressed-out days I spent working on this campaign."

Brown adds that one of the most important lesson she learned is "to never say it can't be done--more times than not the impossible is not as impossible as you think."