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Five U students giving a presentation.

A team from the School of Journalism won big at the National Student Advertising Competition with their campaign for Coca-Cola. From left to right: Brandon Miller, Michael Tsang, Matthew Nyquist, Brenna Whisney, and Meghan Norris.

The Coca-Cola kids

U journalism students take top advertising honors

June 24, 2007

Students from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota placed first in the annual National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC), sponsored by the American Advertising Federation (AAF). The team won with an integrated marketing campaign created for the Coca-Cola Co.

The SJMC team defeated 170 regional winners in what is known in the industry as the "World Series" of advertising. It's the fifth time in the past six years they have advanced to the national competition, taking third place last year. No other school holds such an outstanding record. The recent win, however, is all the sweeter because it's the first time in history an SMJC team has brought home top honors.

"We practiced, practiced, and practiced--more than 100 hours," says team co-president Matt Nyquist, who graduated this past spring and now works for Olson & Co. in Minneapolis. "Within five minutes of giving our winning presentation, each presenter was asked by at least three companies if they wanted to come work for them. NSAC is regarded throughout the industry as the closest thing to actually working in an agency. In fact, many employers are beginning to consider it a necessary activity just to get in the door."

"Within five minutes of giving our winning presentation, each presenter was asked by at least three companies if they wanted to come work for them," says team co-president Matt Nyquist.

Coca-Cola invited AAF's college chapter members to develop an integrated marketing campaign for Coca-Cola Classic. The students' objective was to create a plan inclusive of advertising, media, retail activation, packaging, public relations, and promotions. For several months, the students--working in teams--conducted primary research to study the target market, including its media habits and its competition. Each team then pitched its campaign to a panel of judges.

In their "Together" campaign, the University team positioned Coca-Cola as "an uplifting part of youth's favorite shared experiences," focusing on the Millennial Group, also known as Generation Y. Their campaign featured an essential characteristic of the Coca-Cola brand: the role it plays in social connections.

Rick Zuroweste, group-marketing director of Coca-Cola, commended the team for having the "most thorough analysis" out of all competing teams.

Finishing behind the U were, in order, the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, and Syracuse University.

"In talking about our students' campaign and commenting on their commercials, a senior executive from Coca Cola told students, 'We could run your commercials tomorrow,'" says Howard Liszt, senior fellow in the SJMC, a retired CEO of the Campbell Mithun advertising agency in Minneapolis, and the team's adviser. "That quote is my personal favorite and was the highest praise he could have paid to the students' work."