*** NOTE ***
By Karen Herland
The $3-million budget may be virtual, but students registered in MARK 453 are faced with very real client needs.
Students were charged with pitching a major campaign to their client, Toni Hamilton-Edwards, Marketing Head of Peter Mielzynski Agencies Ltd., who are the distributors of Amarula Cream liqueur.
“They are responsible for developing the entire campaign, from soup to nuts,” explained Mary Ann Cipriano, who has been teaching this course off and on for several years.
Although she prefers to work with real cases, it is not always possible to find companies willing to invest the time and energy necessary. Executives who agree to become the students’ clients must be available to present their needs, respond to questions as needed and hear pitches from 20 different teams.
“I’ve never seen a client this wonderful,” Cipriano said. Hamilton-Edwards, whose firm is based in Toronto, flew to Montreal to meet with Cipriano and Darlene Walsh, who is teaching two sections of the course, to determine the classes’ needs. Over the term, she returned several times to present a briefing to the students involved in the project and again over the last two weeks of courses to listen to presentations.
“This is a huge commitment in terms of time and money. But she said it was in keeping with their mandate and community values.”
The award-winning Distell Ltd., Amarula’s parent company, is actively involved in community development and conservation in South Africa, where they are based. They have built factories, a clinic and a daycare in the region. “I wanted to pick a company with a highly ethical profile as an example for students.”
Students spend the semester researching and producing a report on how they want to position the brand, their advertising strategies and media selections, and the content of their campaigns.
Students then produce 20-minute PowerPoint presentations for Hamilton-Edwards and representatives from their advertising firm, Cossette. They in turn provided personal feedback to each team privately. As is always the case in this course, the campaigns remain the intellectual property of the students.
Darlene Walsh, who taught two of the three sections of the course offered this term, said that for some students, having the executives in the room was stressful. “I reminded the students that both the client and I were here to support them, and encourage them to do better.”
Each team received individual feedback immediately after their presentation. Walsh let them know how they did on their interaction and presentation of the material. Hamilton-Edwards discussed their creative ideas and the representatives from Cossette evaluated their media choices.
The students do not just gain the experience of having a client, they also learn about competition. Since they are all given the same briefing on the brand, its market position and potential consumer base, they have to develop ways to meet those needs while standing apart from the other campaigns.
“It really gives you an idea of what it is like,” said Brian Dittmer, whose team, Rafiki Corporation, presented in one of Walsh’s sections of the course.
“Forty-eight hours before the presentation, everyone is freaking out in their own way.” Among the first to present, Dittmer could not help but consider his team’s campaign, based on wordplay, with the other presentations he watched after it.
Dittmer, who is a theatre major, took the course because he thought he might learn more about promoting events and shows with a glimpse into the world of marketing. Tracking down information on advertising rates and how to get a radio spot proved invaluable.