Lecturer Bruce Manthe had a goal for his advertising and promotions class at Roanoke College this fall – Get real world experience.
How? Walk in the shoes of advertising executives.
Manthe divided the class of 11 students into teams of two or three and assigned each group to a Roanoke area business, including a restaurant and a contractor. The assignment was to create a mock marketing campaign for the business, complete with print, radio, television and digital advertisements.
“I wanted to give them a peek…to let them know that commercials don’t just happen,” Manthe said.
This “peek” evolved into an intense project for Manthe’s students, including Colin Loudy, Sam Cook and Ryan Cale, who spent about two months designing an advertising campaign for Roanoke-based Advance Auto Parts, an automotive parts and accessories retailer with stores nationwide.
Cale estimated that his team spent between five to 15 hours a week on the campaign, which targeted Advance’s Roanoke Valley audience.
They met several times with John Vaughn, who is manager of sponsorships and events at Advance, to discuss the Fortune 500 company’s target audience and brand.
“I let them lead, but I would guide and coach to make them aware of certain pitfalls,” Vaughn said.
The students chose a football theme for Advance’s print advertisements. They photographed Advance employees holding automotive products while posing in a Heisman Trophy stance, kneeling in the Tebowing position which was made popular by National Football League quarterback, Tim Tebow, and making a referee’s touchdown signal.
A radio commercial targeted Advance’s do-it-yourself customers, complete with vehicle engines roaring in the background.
For a television commercial, the students worked with WSLS 10 in Roanoke to film a female customer coming to an Advance store for vehicle advice.
Students were responsible for all aspects of the plan, including scheduling appointments and finding actors for commercials. A week and a half before the Advance presentation, logistical challenges forced Cale, Loudy and Cook to change the focus of their television commercial, for which they originally planned to incorporate a tow truck driver.
Earlier this month, the Advance student team, all dressed in suits, presented their advertising plan to Vaughn, complete with cost estimates. Manthe peppered them with questions during the presentation in an attempt to simulate an actual advertising meeting scenario.
“That’s exactly what you’re going to do in a real life situation,” said Cale, a junior from Fishersville, Va., who is interested in a marketing or advertising career.
It’s unknown if the businesses that participated in the project will use Roanoke students’ marketing ideas. A few told Manthe that the students’ suggestions were helpful, he said.
Even so, Vaughn said he valued the chance to teach students about advertising.
“That’s as real world as it gets,” he said. “I wish that I had had more of that experience when I was in college. If you have a textbook versus actually doing it, you should do it.”
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