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Adding experience the ideal strategy

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For a majority of advertising students, landing work in an agency is the end game. They want to be among the next generation of art directors, copywriters, account managers and media buyers working in the fast-paced ad agency environment. But gaining an understanding of that environment, the different roles available and how they interact, even the way in which a project is managed from its infancy to completion, can’t be learned in the lecture theatre alone.

Vector image of people in a meeting room.

Hands-on learning in an authentic environment plays an important role throughout the study journey, and Curtin Strategic Advertising student Sheridan New, couldn’t agree more. The unit gave her the chance to undertake a project with industry, which meant interacting with a real client and creating an advertising campaign strategy and associated creative elements.

The client, Richgro, a century old West Australian soil care company, wanted to educate and inform new markets in South Australia and New South Wales, and the existing WA market about their soil wetter product, Ezi-Wet. But it was also about providing a unique learning environment for students.

“From personal experience, I know how hard it can be to get real life industry experience when you’re studying. This is part of the reason Richgro teamed up with Curtin. Working with real clients provides an important opportunity for the students to understand that the decisions they make as advertising and marketing professionals directly impacts sales at a real level,” says Richgro marketing manager Heath Okely.

“In addition to that, sometimes the company can get too close to a product or project and it was great to get some new ideas, from non-gardeners and young people.”

As part of the brief, students toured the facilities in Jandakot and met with the client to discuss key objectives and budget. From there, they formed teams and undertook tasks relating to client management, research, strategy and creative. Though some teams assigned particular roles per team member, New’s team took a different approach.

“In terms of the roles I played in our project team, I pretty much did a bit of everything! I helped develop our campaign strategy, and I also dealt with the client and research. We didn’t use the conventional role method,” New explains.

“I think I knew from the start that we were good as a team and we were already throwing around some good ideas very early on.”

New’s team set out to create an advertising concept that utilised humour to disseminate the message, which focused on how to use the product.

“We wanted the ad to be humorous because the research we undertook supported our insight that humour was an effective way to get people’s attention, particularly when the topic might be perceived as a chore for younger people, such as gardening,” New recalls.

“We knew it was crucial that the creative concept was engaging, and decided to take a different direction to what Richgro had taken previously. This was a risk for Mr Okely, but our team really believed that this would be sound investment and would effectively inform people about what soil wetter was, how to use it, where to find it, and of course, Richgro’s [market] point of difference.”

Their pitch began with a 30-second TV commercial that channelled the ‘Aussie identity’; a combination of pride and comedy, to not only appeal to existing customers who are experienced gardeners, but to also tap into the novice gardener sector that Richgro had identified as a secondary target market.

“We created a mock up script and also suggested a series of smaller ads to be used to supplement the main ad, which were various, funny ways how not to make your grass green,” New muses.

The team incorporated a social media strategy into the mix to support traditional media, using Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to promote the commercial, along with merchandise including a magnet calendar that identified the best times to use Ezi-Wet throughout the year.

Unit coordinator Graham Ferguson is happy with the level of industry exposure the project provided to students and aims each year to engage with different industries and sectors.

“This semester, we are doing marketing communications strategies for fundraising for an Anglicare child domestic violence counselling service, which is sure to be both a challenging and rewarding experience for the students,” says Ferguson.

But for New, having completed her degree at the end of 2017, her next big campaign is still in the making.

“My dream job doesn’t have a title yet, but I’m thinking something creative. The world is my oyster, as they say. Throughout the project, I loved orchestrating things as I am an avid list maker and game-planner so strategy execution has me hooked!” says New.

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