Written by marketing student Andrew Barker:

When I first walked into Dr. Troy’s Account Planning class in August 2018, I had no idea of the kind of transformative experiences, high impact learning, and profound relationships that lied ahead of me. There was no way to predict the amount of brain power and man hours this kind of project demanded. There was no way I could expect the bitter-sweet feeling I had when our research, creativity, and strategy formulation culminated at the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition (AAF-NSAC) last week in Shreveport, Louisiana. This was something that could only be experienced.

Every year, the AAF selects a client for the National Student Advertising Competition. Colleges and universities across the country then conduct research and create an advertising campaign to be presented in front of a panel of judges comprised of industry professionals and the client’s executives. Over the course of two semesters, my team – Good Bull Advertising – created an advertising campaign for this year’s selected client, Wienerschnitzel, to rebrand the hot dog and fight against common misconceptions about the food. We received the case during the summer and began our research during the fall semester. After utilizing the university’s databases and conducting our own independent research, we administered surveys and interviews to gather thousands of impressions. In the spring, we began our creative journey by focusing our campaign on a central theme and slogan: “Seize the Day, Seize the Dog.” We then created a media plan and came up with advertisements, initiatives, and activations that would take our campaign nationwide.

Last week, Good Bull Advertising traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana to present our campaign. When we arrived at the hotel and conference center where the competition would be staged, we were met by the presence of teams of students from other schools. After a few moments of uneasiness and giving each other once-overs, tensions were eased as the teams remembered that 1) We are all college-aged adults and 2) We all had studied hot dogs for far too long. This was a defining moment, as the teams seemed to have an understanding of each other that permeated into our interactions throughout the rest of the competition.

At the beginning of the competition, we were reminded by competition staff that we would likely work with the people around us in the near future as we were all geared toward careers in advertising. As I watched other teams’ presentations, I was encouraged by this thought. It was interesting to see the different directions teams went with the case because, for the most part, we all reached similar conclusions in our initial research (one team even used a slogan that we had brainstormed in the early stages of our campaign). It reminded me that there is never one solution to a problem and that the best solutions are flexible to the always-changing environment.

When our team left for the awards ceremony, I felt confident. As part of the presentation team, I felt as if we had given our best presentation yet and handled Q&A with ease. When they announced Texas A&M had won second place overall and Best Media Plan, I couldn’t help but think about how far we had come since the first day of class in August. I was proud of our team, not only for placing so high, but for being fully committed to each other for the past nine months.

Over the course of these last two semesters, I learned many tangible, valuable skills. I challenged myself in my writing and my understanding of research. My team and I stretched our networks as far as they could go to gather data points and insights. We put in hours of brainstorming and creatively challenged ourselves in design, media planning, and strategy. We called upon our knowledge and higher education to achieve greater heights than we thought possible. I would argue, though, that none of these things were the most important part about this experience. If all I was able to take from this experience was another line on my resume that said we competed in a national competition, then I would have considered this a failure. I believe the most important thing I can take from this whole experience was the relationships I formed with my teammates. It was the realization that everyone brought with them unique perspectives and skill sets that, when put together, could create something impactful, true, and beautiful. I believe that is the whole point of high-impact learning: to realize the hard skills we learned throughout our education will only take us so far; that the most important thing we can bring to a team, a firm, or a family is our willingness to do the best we can do for the person next to us; and that when they win, we all win. This experience reminded me of the importance of working for something bigger than yourself, and that is something I won’t soon forget.