UM students pitch advertising strategies

Posted May 05, 2009, at 6:52 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Three advertising agencies made their pitches Tuesday afternoon to help three local businesses expand their audience, improve their visibility and increase their profits.

What was in it for the ad agencies? Real-life experience, the chance to connect to the community — and, it is hoped, a good classroom grade.

The three “agencies” were made up of a total of 23 University of Maine seniors from a semester-long advertising class in which they planned an ad campaign from the ground up.

Rather than invent case studies, Changmin Yang, a UMaine assistant professor in the department of communication and journalism, paired each team of students with a real-life, Bangor-based entity. The participating businesses were the Grasshopper Shop boutique, The Henry’s Bridal Boutique and Formal Wear, and the Maine Discovery Museum, a children’s museum.

The students pitched their advertising campaigns in the council chambers at Bangor City Hall. Several representatives of each business were in the audience to hear the presentations.

Yang said the goal of the class was simply to give students experience in the real world, which they seemed to appreciate. Many of them dressed in business attire, spoke with authority and used a variety of media in their presentations.

“It was really good to have the opportunity to do this and have this experience before we move on into the real world,” said class member Sonja Fickett, a Milbridge native who wants to pursue a career in advertising. “It’s very rewarding to have this opportunity, and also work with the community.”

Each agency had an account executive, a creative team, marketers and media planners. Some groups used traditional media such as newspapers and radio. Others decided to put advertising money into ads on Facebook, a social networking Web site, or with direct marketing.

“The bulk of the campaign is about advertising but I required them to include [public relations] and marketing because it was an integrated campaign,” Yang said.

Fickett served as the account executive for Prestige Advertising, which planned a campaign for the Maine Discovery Museum that was centered on an art contest and Leap Into Learning Day. The “agency” even had a person dressed up as Lily Hopper, a frog meant to serve as a sort of mascot for the museum. The museum, on Main Street, has a large clock with a frog outside the building.

The student groups were challenged with multilayered issues from each of the real-world businesses. Pinpoint Advertising, for example, was charged with strengthening the Grasshopper Shop’s base of female customers in the 35-to-50 age range while expanding business to the local university campuses.

Vision Communications had to draw up campaigns for The Henry’s prom and bridal customers, two very different groups.

“I wanted to represent different problems, different scales and limitations,” Yang said. “They have different products, different target audiences and the issues are more complicated.”

Yang credited the Maine Discovery Museum, Grasshopper Shop and The Henry’s with working so closely with the UMaine class.

“[The businesses] really devoted their time and they shared their sensitive business information,” he said. “They trusted the students and gave them a lot of freedom with their company.”

Laurie and Rick Schweikert, who own the Grasshopper Shop, got involved in the program because they were interested in interacting with and helping the students — and also to gain some insight into the college market.

“It’s an audience we haven’t been able to target, and we were hoping to get some new and fresh ideas,” Laurie Schweikert said. “Also, we wanted to see what [the students] thought about the store and to see what could be improved.”

The Grasshopper owners likely will use some of the ideas they heard Tuesday.

“I think we’ll take some of the recommendations very seriously,” Rick Schweikert said.

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