University of Virginia Wins AAF’s First-Ever B2B National Student Advertising Competition

Get noticed.

by Zach Baumgarten

posted on 06-25-2020

In the words of John Keats, “Nothing in life is real until it is experienced.”

That’s precisely the thinking behind the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC), led by the American Advertising Federation (AAF). For the past 46 years, the AAF, in partnership with different brands, has offered college students the opportunity to create a strategic marketing campaign for a corporate “client” (a.k.a. that year’s brand sponsor). Students develop their marketing plans and then pitch their work to advertising professionals at the district, semi-final, and national levels. Talk about a real-world experience.

This year Adobe sponsored the competition. The students’ challenge? To create an awareness campaign for our integrated advertising solution, which includes Adobe Advertising Cloud, Adobe Analytics and Adobe Audience Manager. More than 100 universities competed – many of which use this competition as part of their curriculums. Seniors studying marketing spent the better part of the last two semesters of college in teams to focus specifically on creating a campaign for Adobe.

According to Adam Morgan, executive creative director at Adobe, their submissions were truly impressive.

“This was the first time ever in the history of the competition that the whole program was around a B2B campaign rather than B2C,” said Morgan, who also served as a judge. “For Adobe, most people know all about our Creative Cloud products like Photoshop and InDesign, but we really have an awareness issue with some of our more enterprise-focused products.”

Along the mantra of “know thy customer,” Adobe briefed students and professors about Adobe Advertising Cloud, its demand-side advertising platform (DSP), digging into the nuances of B2B as well as programmatic advertising to arm students with the knowledge to start conceptualizing their marketing plans.

‘Era of ignore-ance’ emerges victorious

Team #146 from the University of Virginia was the winner of this year’s competition, which was held entirely online for the first time due to COVID-19. According to Morgan, these students took an innovative approach to their campaign, which moved away from focusing on Advertising Cloud as an end-to-end solution and instead emphasized data-informed creativity and the ability to deliver advertisements that are tailored to specific individuals within an audience.

“That was a huge deal to us,” Morgan says. “Their approach was innovative and bold in that they researched the industry to better understand exactly what advertisers are looking for in their advertising solutions, and focused all of their messaging around how Advertising Cloud solves customer challenges. That’s customer-centricity at its best.”

Team #146 characterized the current advertising landscape as the “Era of Ignore-Ance,” with consumers ignoring the thousands of ads they are exposed to daily. Programmatic, they argued, has only added to an abundance of generic ads that fail to get the attention of the consumer.

Team #146’s pitch material highlights some of the harsh realities in the advertising landscape.

Through dynamic creative optimization (DCO), advertisers could create personalized advertising based on data, the team maintained. Their presentation highlighted how “98% of marketers believe real-time personalization improves campaign performance but only 3% have the ability to target creative for each audience segment,” suggesting that Advertising Cloud uniquely solves an industrywide problem with its ability to personalize advertising.

The “data-informed creativity,” according to the team, takes advantage of the massive perception Adobe already has in the creative space, and extends it into the company’s enterprise advertising solution.

Team #146’s pitch material, which stresses the importance of data-informed creativity.

The award for second place went to Texas State University, and the University of Missouri placed third. Other finalists include Chapman University, East Tennessee State University, Florida State University, Grand Valley State University, Marian University, and University of Oregon.

“Sponsoring the NSAC for 2020 has been an amazing journey,” Morgan says. “COVID-19 didn’t stop the students from delivering great campaigns. We gave the students a complicated B2B technology project, and they came back with big ideas and great research that we can use today.”

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Topics: Advertising, News

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud