The School of Advertising takes Academy of Art University’s “real-world” approach to education seriously. The school’s One Club initiative offers students an opportunity to work on real-world challenges, advised by advertising executives and instructors with extensive agency experience.
Boot Camp, a competition organized by The One Club, is one way students learn to address actual client issues. Over four days in October, more than 50 Advertising students organized in 11 teams participated in the sixth annual Boot Camp competition. The students’ challenge was to create a values-based campaign for Blue Shield of California. Employees of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP), an agency for Blue Shield of California, offered guidance and judged student solutions, along with other industry professionals.
“The aim is to mimic an agency,” said NiRey Reynolds, a One Club creative manager and one of the competition’s organizers. “Most of the people here are big fish, little pond. They’re the best of the best in their arenas, but then they meet other big fish. It’s interesting how it plays out.”
The Blue Shield Identity
Although Blue Cross Blue Shield is a single association, its licensees offer separate plans in many locales, including California. This can create confusion. It made developing a campaign brief tricky for students such as Anushka Kandachia and Divij Prakash.
“It’s hard to be passionate about something that you haven’t dealt with a lot,” says Kandachia, a BFA candidate. “So, it’s [about] doing good research. In fact, I think we learned more about insurance in the last three days than we ever [knew] before.”
“A topic like this gets you out of your comfort zone,” says Prakash, also a BFA student. “But that’s a good thing.”
Team Briefs Unveiled
By the fourth day of Boot Camp, the dust had settled. All 11 teams were ready to address the judges. Some groups emphasized Blue Shield’s California values. Others thought of ways to set Blue Shield apart from the competition.
But the winning team focused on what they called “the small choices.” Mai Yasa and her team Surf Squad developed a brand message that spoke directly to low-income consumers. Their solution shows how small decisions in life—every step, ounce, vote, etc.—can mean a lot, especially when the concept is applied to health care.
“When we were gearing [up] for the concept, we went straight to the customer’s needs,” says Yasa, a BFA candidate. “We wanted to let the people who see the campaign know that Blue Shield just wants them to be healthy.”
Simple and to the point, Surf Squad’s solution won the judges over with its strategy of putting customers first and letting brand values shine. Research was crucial in this process, says Enrike Grageda, one of Yasa’s teammates and also a BFA student. The knowledge that team members gathered helped them understand Blue Shield as a company, its California culture, and the clients that need its services most.
“Our insight was that people with lower incomes prioritize differently,” Grageda explains, citing the high value low-income consumers place on basic needs such as food, water and shelter. “We wanted to show them that health care doesn’t have to be out of reach for them.”
Surf Squad’s customer-centered approach impressed the judges, including those who work directly with Blue Shield, like Betsy Bellotti, who handles brand marketing, and BSSP Account Manager Caitlin Bricker.
“When you look at values as a brand pillar, you try to be more provocative in a way that you wouldn’t expect from health insurance,” Bricker says. Examining the personality, values and culture of a company and its brand, “you get to burst out of the box.”
Judges & Students Cite Takeaways
Overall, judges were impressed with the students’ efforts. “They had the challenge of how you speak to a wide audience and how you make it personal,” said BSSP Art Director Lynn Nakamura. “They all were able to inject their personalities into their campaigns.”
For placing at the top, Yasa, Grageda and the rest of the team were granted free entry into the Young Ones competition, a one-year One Club membership that gives them access to resources and benefits as well as informational interviews with BSSP.
Students like Kandachia and Jomelle Nara Montillo had positive takeaways from the boot camp experience. “I had a good time,” says Kandachia. “It was a lot of fun. We made a good campaign that I can put in my portfolio. And I did some networking.”
“Once you get into the process, you just start having fun,” says Montillo, an MFA student. “I might win, I might not win. But at the end of the day, I collaborated with a bunch of great people. I made some friends. And we ended up getting something I can say I did and am proud of. And we did it in three days!”
Original article by Nina Tabios of Academy Art U News