News: Students Win Marketing Contest

Selling Hollywood and Changing the World

Imagine the next movie poster you pass doesn't have smiling movie stars but a young woman with disheveled hair. There is dirt on her face and her clothes are unkempt, worn, and stained. She is attractive, but only upon a second look. Next to her stands an apparently wealthy, successful, well-dressed businessman. As for the young woman, she is bound, and the caption below her reads: "Not exactly how I expected to be introduced."

If the poster sounds more unsettling than attractive, that's exactly what students at Colorado Christian University want you to think. As part of a contest to create a marketing campaign for the upcoming movie Trade of Innocents, starring Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino and Dermot Mulroney, a class of 11 CCU students decided to not only create buzz about the movie but potential action among anyone who saw a poster or stumbled upon the Facebook page.

Made aware of this unique contest by the marketing director for the film, Professor Ron Rex approached his class early in the semester to see if they were up for designing a marketing campaign. "I use case studies and marketing projects in a lot of my classes," he said. "It just fit that this existing class could do some hands-on corporate and message marketing."

Added Dean of the School of Business and Leadership Dr. Gary Ewen, "The idea is -- as much as humanly possible -- to bring the real world into the classroom, so students aren't just working on yet another academic case study, but they're working on something real."

The class, comprised mainly of juniors, took to the task instantly. Whereas the competition -- other schools around the nation -- often had budgets to work with and money to finance ideas, the class at CCU was a bootstrap operation. Students used personal software to design posters or coffee cup sleeves, and their own equipment for the photo shoots. Even so, CCU students took top prize in the contest -- an $11,500 donation to the School.

The donation comes at a time when the University is promoting giving specifically for scholarships, and the $11,500 will be matched anonymously to create a $23,000 endowed scholarship, reminding future recipients of both the success of CCU's School of Business and Leadership, and the need to take action to end modern-day slavery.

The comprehensive marketing plan designed by the class -- which reached to 70 pages and ended up as the only comprehensive narrative plan with a budget included -- was lauded by the producers for its ingenuity and insight. While posters and slogans are commonplace, and social media is a must for reaching younger generations, CCU students identified a potential coffeehouse movement. The justice generation -- a subset of the millennial generation that is especially interested in promoting justice locally and abroad -- is the target market for the producers. When CCU students discovered that these young people frequent coffeehouses, it became an obvious winning concept. Since coffeehouse are easy to locate and audit, the class designed everything from coffee sleeves to posters aimed specifically at their peers. This aspect of the proposal -- among blog posts, a social media push, and traditional posters -- was particularly lauded.

In the end, the marketing campaign became a collaborative and cross-generational project. Rex said "What I liked about it was the fusing of generations. I'm not of the millennial generation, but was able by working with the class to show the shared values, and more importantly, shared wisdom. I knew we needed a definable target market, and they knew how to jump on the internet and find those groups. The classroom is often a one-way stream," he said. "This project required a two-way stream." Such collaborative effort across generations not only wins marketing competitions, but will also help have much more lasting effects: raising awareness and ending human slavery. "It's not only promoting a film," said Dr. Ewen, "but actually changing the world."