Students win with Pizza Hut campaign

By Campus Editor

Nineteen students within the Communication & Media Innovation Department’s “Campaign Practicum” course were recognized on April 10 for their original advertising campaign for Pizza Hut at the National Student Advertising Competition regionals.

Students in the yearlong course, taught by Peg Murphy, an assistant professor in the CMI Department, won first place in NSAC’s regional round for their work on behalf of Pizza Hut, the competition’s sponsor, and will be moving on to the competition’s semi-finals, which will take place in early May.

“I’m always proud of them, but it’s great to see their work recognized and all their great partnerships at the school,” Murphy said. “I couldn’t be more happy even though I don’t always tell them that because I want them to work hard.”

Columbia competed against other leading colleges and universities in the region, including Butler University, Notre Dame University and the University of Michigan, to create a comprehensive marketing campaign for Pizza Hut.

“Our district is the largest out of the whole country,” said Garrett Black, a senior advertising major who participated in the class. “The fact that we won in this one means a lot [and] gives me a lot of confidence because if we can win here, we have a chance [of winning and] going on.”

Each team submitted a 27-page plan detailing the specifics of its campaign and then pitched it to a panel of four judges who chose the winning campaigns based on the creators’ understanding of the brand, research and creative idea. The next round of the competition consists of a conference phone call between the advertising team, a management professional from Pizza Hut and other professionals in the marketing industry who will interview the team about its campaign strategies.

Students began planning the campaign during the Fall 2014 Semester and worked on the project during Winter and Spring breaks, Black said.

“We had a lot of elements that none of the other campaigns included,” Black said. “That goes to everything from research to actual creative elements themselves like the ads, tactics. [Murphy] pushed us to look into certain areas that no other team did, [which] separated us.”

One challenge the team faced during the competition was Pizza Hut’s decision to rebrand in November 2014, which influenced Columbia’s advertising team to rethink its campaign strategy, a decision Black said helped set its work apart from that of their competitors.

“Only a couple of teams actually addressed the rebrand, which is huge because their campaign is based off the old Pizza Hut,” Black said. “It makes their campaign outdated. We went back in and did research and based our campaign after the new Pizza Hut, which a lot of teams didn’t. It threw a wrench, but it worked to our advantage.”

Robin Bargar, dean of the School of Media Arts, said the “Campaign Practicum” team’s win is a big accomplishment for the college because it demonstrates the kinds of interdisciplinary opportunities that the CMI Department offers.

He said it sends a message to those outside the college that Columbia students produce high-quality work.

“[The class] has students with different kinds of skills who work together in this team,” Bargar said. “They don’t all come from the same [programs]. They take this class to do this competition but all come from different places. Some have majors in advertising or public relations or marketing, but [others] have a background in art and design, video or audio. It’s a really interdisciplinary collaboration.”