A select UH team of 21 students from the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication participated in the National Student Advertising Competition, the largest advertising pitch competition. Their challengers came from well-known colleges in our region.
"Our assignment, along with everyone else's, was to position State Farm Insurance Agency for 18-25-year olds," said Larry Kelley, instructional professor of advertising. "That was the challenge that all the teams undertook."
The university had sent teams in the past, though the No. 1 moniker had eluded UH for 16 years. Students who were selected to participate had to sign agreements that they would give up their spring break vacations and dedicate 30 hours a week to working on the project.
"This was real-world experience because we were really an agency," said student Wes Verrett. "There are different departments in our group. There is a hierarchy of people. Everyone took on a role that is in an advertising agency."
The intensity of the competition became evident quickly. Students spent long days and nights writing, brainstorming, fighting, not sleeping, bonding, and finally, becoming a team.
"I was the marketing director," said senior Seth Johnson. "Everyone who worked on it was extraordinary, very professional."
Working on a successful pitch meant editing, revising and making all the pieces fit. Student Laura Martinez, a manager on the project, kept her colleagues on task.
"We posted everything on walls. We said, 'ok creative this is what you're going to work on today, account planning this is what you're going to work on,'" she said. "We took piece by piece. It was like connecting the dots, putting everything together, tying it all in and making it all integrate."
The process continued for weeks. Just as in the real world, there were many challenges. One team member had to leave suddenly for surgery. One person got married. One person had a baby. But, when adversity reared its head, the team pulled together and a well-oiled machine emerged.
The competition buckled. UH Cougar Concepts won.
"This was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. We are all so close now, but we were at each other's throats," Verrett laughed. "But in the end, it's all good. We're all good friends now."
Cougar Concepts is part of what's happening at the University of Houston. I'm Marisa Ramirez.
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