Unleashing Creativity: How College Students Take on Advertising Challenges

Each year, some of the sharpest thinkers you’re likely to meet gather at Chicago’s Columbia College for a high-stakes advertising competition. They’re not professional strategists, copywriters or art directors—they’re college students taking part in The One Club’s Creative Boot Camp, and their work is insightful and inspired.

A mentor's perspective: insights on guiding the next generation of advertisers

Along with Janna Fiester (Executive Creative Director here at Sandstorm), I was a mentor and judge at this year’s Creative Boot Camp. The annual event is presented by The One Club, a non-profit organization devoted to elevating creative work in the advertising industry. One of the missions of The One Club is to educate and inspire students of the business, and the Creative Boot Camp gives collegians the opportunity to work in teams to develop a multi-media marketing campaign.

Behind the scenes: the three-day journey of crafting multi-media Marketing campaigns

Seventeen teams—comprised of students from Columbia, DePaul, Harper, and other area schools—worked closely together for three days to develop campaigns for Kraft American Cheese Singles. Serving as mentors, Janna and I (along with a handful of other Chicago ad professionals) moved from team to team answering questions, resolving conflicts, and sharing our perspectives.

You could really sense the passion each team had for their work,” recalls Janna. “These were college students who had never met before being assigned to their Creative Boot Camp team. The research and strategy development they were doing to provide a foundation for the creative work was truly amazing.”

The teams worked around the clock on their campaigns and, on the fourth day, formally presented their work to a panel of judges comprised of Janna and me and four other ad executives. Each team presented its research, strategy, and creative rationale for campaigns that spanned TV, print, social media, point-of-purchase and field marketing.

After the presentations, the judges selected the top three teams, each of which received a year’s membership in The One Club. The members of the first-place team were also awarded interviews at Leo Burnett, the agency that sponsored the event.

Impactful encounters: experiences and takeaways 

“It was an amazing experience,” says Janna, “and throughout the four days, the students were incredibly appreciative of the time and expertise we were sharing with them.” And while I concur with her assessment, I have to say that we got back at least as much as we gave.

We can’t wait til next year, when we get to do it all over again.

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