Academic Tradition Gives Students Real World Experience By Rebecca Quintero ’03

Two William Woods University professors have a 12-year collaborative tradition combining graphic design and advertising to the benefit of students in both academic areas.

Bob Elliott, assistant professor of graphic arts, and David Forster, associate professor of business and economics, have been bringing together their classes since the early 1990s.

“It started when my advertising classes had to develop marketing plans,” explained Forster. “They would bring in crayon drawings, stick figures, things that looked like elementary kids did them.” Forster said their excuse was they were “business students, not art students.”

To avoid this pitfall, he introduced his advertising class to Elliott’s graphic design students, and they’ve been working together ever since.

Students who enroll in Advertising Campaigns are given the responsibility of inventing a new, fictitious product and then creating an in-depth marketing and media plan for it. Past products have included perfume, wine, cereal, iced tea and bottled water.

Graphic design class is conducted as an actual design business under the name Real World Design Studio. They take advertising students’ ideas and make them reality by producing product mock-ups, television commercials, radio spots, magazine advertisements and billboards.

“It’s a powerful team situation,” Elliott said. “The graphic design students learn to work with clients and bend to their desires, and the business students learn to work with the quirks of art students.”

Last semester, advertising students were given the task of developing marketing plans for barbeque sauce. Split into two groups, the teams created “Backyard Barbeque” and “Firehouse Barbeque Sauce.”

“We were assigned to create a barbeque sauce, design a media plan and advertising packet, and then present our package to a panel of judges,” said Megan Klein, a senior from Fort Smith, Ark.

The judges were Amy Ramsey Berendzen, a 1994 WWU graduate and broadcast manager for the Missouri Lottery, and Kevin Shults, an art director for Vangel Associates in Columbia, Mo.

“Just 10 years ago I was in their shoes doing the same thing,” said Berendzen.

Each group gave detailed presentations regarding their plans to incorporate their product into the barbeque sauce market.

Featuring a label with burnt edges and a picture of a firehouse, “Firehouse Barbeque Sauce” claimed that it offered the hottest sauce that could be found in grocery stores. Using the slogan, “add some heat to your BBQ,” the firm targeted young adult males and proposed sponsorships with MTV’s Summer Beach and a Firehouse BBQ Cook-off, as well as advertising during the Super Bowl.

“From our backyard to yours” was the slogan for “Backyard Barbeque.” The key ingredient that set this sauce apart from its competitors was that beer was added for flavor. The bottle was a 12 oz. bottleneck container.

Throughout their ads, the team incorporated a red-and-white-checkered picnic tablecloth and colors usually associated with famous beer brands, as well as their slogan to give viewers a backyard-type of feel.

The main component of “Backyard Barbeque” sales pitch was to sponsor head-to-head cook-offs with their major competitor throughout the Midwest.

In addition to their product mock-ups, each group showed a 30-second television and radio commercial produced by design students, along with storyboards for alternative commercials.

The magazine ads created by the graphic design team featured brilliant colors of red, yellow and orange, two-page ads with transparency covers and photographs of firefighters and singed diners.

Following the individual presentations, the judges critiqued the plans and offered suggestions and compliments for the groups. Another part of the judges’ responsibilities was to choose the best project.

Liz Murski, a senior from Lee’s Summit, Mo., is a business administration major who took the advertising class to fill an opening in her schedule. As a result, she developed an interest in the field.

“I am not what you would call the creative type,” Murski said. “But I got to work with a group and we bounced ideas off each other. It taught me a lot about teamwork and it definitely sparked an interest in advertising and marketing for me.”

Although the barbeque sauce project was only one example of the type of work the classes are expected to produce, past students have experienced success outside of the classroom based upon the assignment.

One such student was Shelly Nadler Nieweg.

Nieweg, a 1999 graduate, was assigned the job of creating a candy bar. Her group devised a candy bar that was half milk chocolate and half white chocolate. She later submitted the work for the American Marketing Association conference held annually in St. Louis.

The conference awards a $5,000 scholarship to one student who is deemed the top marketing student in the Midwest. Not only did Nadler win the award, she submitted the idea for a patent and is now trying to sell it to Russell Stover.

“Being able to produce such quality work at this level can be used for your portfolio and to get a job in an advertising agency,” Forster said. “It looks impressive, and it is.”

“This project has been a wonderful, cooperative experience,” summed up Elliott. “It has opened people’s eyes to new possibilities and been an enriching experience for our students.”