Anxiety levels were high for a group of 30 Aggies as they mentally prepared to showcase nearly a year’s worth of research and campaign development.

Perhaps it was the Twelfth Man and its Aggie spirit that helped the five-member presentation team woo a panel of three judges April 12, because 12m Advertising placed first in the District No. 10 National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) for the first time in history.

Student members of 12m Advertising and Mays marketing professor Lisa Troy (far right)
Student members of 12m Advertising and Mays clinical associate marketing professor Lisa Troy (far right)

12m Advertising is an advertising firm created and operated by 30 marketing students from Texas A&M’s Mays Business School.

For the last three years, 12m Advertising has competed in the NSAC — hosted by the American Advertising Federation (AAF) — where teams are presented with a case study and challenge for a real-world company.

Nissan USA was the client for this year. Participating schools were challenged to develop a marketing campaign targeting U.S. multi-cultural millennials, ages 18 to 29 years old, with a $100 million budget. Campaigns were communicated in each team’s 32-page plan book and 20-minute presentation, which both factor into the final score determined by the judge panel in deciding the overall winner.

According to the AAF website, each of the 15 districts in the nation holds a competition in April where winners present at the AAF National Conference in June. This year’s national conference will be in Austin.

“The team really had chemistry this year and I think the judges could see it,” said Macie Becker ’12, a senior marketing major and one of the five presenters of 12m Advertising. “We were genuinely passionate about our campaign.”

In the past, 12m Advertising has achieved fourth place, third place and “Most Integrated Campaign” in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively. This year, the team got first place in competition against 10 institutions.

“I am very proud of our students,” said Lisa Troy, clinical associate professor of marketing. “Winning at this level requires a significant amount of dedication and commitment, and the entire team rose to the challenge … working over winter and spring break to perfect the plan and prepare for the event.”

First conducted in 1973, the National Student Advertising Competition, hosted by the American Advertising Federation, is an event in which more than 100 universities compete in “pitching” the best marketing campaign for a real-world client to a judge panel.

Annually, a corporate sponsor provides a case study outlining the history of its product and current advertising situation. The case study reflects a real world situation to challenge students’ critical thinking abilities and creativity. Students must research the product and its competition, identify potential problems and develop an integrated communications campaign for the client. Each student team then “pitches” its campaign to a panel of judges.

In addition to achieving a guaranteed spot at nationals, Jason Syptak ’12, senior marketing major and one of the five presenters for 12m Advertising, received the “Best Presenter Special Judges Award” among 50 presenters in the competition.

“When the judges announced that I was the winner of this award, I was shocked and in disbelief,” Syptak said. “I was shaking and overwhelmed with positive emotions as I ventured to the front of the ballroom to accept the award and take photos. I kept on exclaiming, “This is so Glee right now,’ to my teammates.”

At Texas A&M, 12m Advertising’s marketing research and campaign development is facilitated through two marketing classes at Mays. MKTG 489, “Advertising Research Procedures and Account Planning,” is offered in the fall semester while MKTG 447, “Advertising Case Competition,” is offered in the spring. Interested individuals must apply to gain entrance into the class by submitting a letter of intent and resume.

To develop the campaign and compete in the national-level of the NSAC, students from the fall class conducted primary and secondary research into the target market, the automotive industry and its products. Using the research from the fall class, students in the spring class develop the campaign itself: campaign objectives, strategic concept and integrated traditional, digital, alternative and social media executions.

“From the long hours of research and countless focus groups, to debates on the most effective alternative executions, this campaign is truly a years’ worth of the best work I’ve done,” said Savanna Pratka ’12, a senior marketing major and member of 12m Advertising’s Alternative Team. “Competing in the NSAC is so rewarding and I learned a lot from watching the other schools.”

Ariel Mueller ’12, a senior marketing major and Digital Team member of 12m Advertising, believes her experience with the student-lead firm will prepare her for her future advertising career.

“The entire process of building the campaign was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun,” said Mueller. “It really gave a great simulation of what an advertising agency does in the real world … and winning was truly a testament to how Mays Business School, even without a specific advertising program, has the tools to prepare us for a career in advertising.”

The winning “Experience Innovation” campaign for Nissan USA developed by 12m Advertising for Nissan USA sheds light on the car company’s innovative essence by means of a hyperbole-sketch theme and is flexible and applicable to the unique lives of multi-cultural millennials.

Because the team achieved a spot in the national competition, photographs of 12m Advertising’s print and digital advertisements could not be released in compliance with the NSAC regulations. Each sketch, however, was hand-drawn by Tyler Guinn ’12, senior marketing major and member of 12m Advertising’s Creative Team.

“This competition proved one thing to me: content matters,” said Guinn. “Our team is dedicated to originality and intense research. No advertising school can teach talent, this team just has it.”

For more information

For more information about 12m Advertising, the National Student Advertising Competition or the American Advertising Federation, visit www.aaf.org/default.asp?id=123 or contact Lisa Troy at ltroy@mays.tamu.edu or (979) 845-5897.