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Portland State University ad team takes first in regional competition
Author: John Kirkland, University Communications
Posted: May 2, 2012


Portland State University advertising students won first place in the regional level of the National Student Advertising Competition on Saturday in Boise, ID. This was the fifth time PSU has taken first regional place in the last 10 years.

They will compete against 15 other top teams, narrowed from more than 150 schools, at the national competition in June in Austin, TX.  

All teams competing this year were assigned a hypothetical $100 million campaign for Nissan, the sponsor of the competition. The task was to develop a comprehensive strategic communications and advertising campaign that spoke to three different cultural segments: African-, Asian-, and Hispanic-American Millennials -- roughly defined as tech-savvy young adults who came of age in the 21st Century.

PSU team, from left to right, front to back: Lance Cvarak, Jae Specht, David Hart, Hilary Shirk, Jonny McCormick, Cameron Sandage, Tim Christy (faculty adviser), Lane Martell, Kieren Fickenscher, Henrique Hermes, Chase Farthing

The PSU team created focus groups, conducted 118 interviews at the Portland International Auto Show and completed 800 surveys in order to create a campaign aimed at those cultural groups. They created a 32-page plans book, a 20-minute new business pitch and ad executions across several media channels including advertising spots for television, magazines, internet and other media.

The tagline they created, “Two lives, One Life,” captures the tension target audience members experience when trying to balance their ethnic identities with society's mainstream norms. At the same time, it addressed the two sides of Nissan – one of sleek sexiness, the other of practicality and sensibility, according Tim Christy, who advised the team along with Don Dickinson, PSU’s Director of Advertising Management.

"These shared experiences illustrate the idea of leading seemingly two lives, yet being centered by a singular purpose. For Nissan, the single purpose is to innovate. For the audience, it is to celebrate one's life," Christy said.

PSU’s diverse student population was an asset to the project, he added.

“They had so many opportunities to talk to members of those cultural segments. It was more real for them than for students at other schools. They could step outside their classes and make connections with people of very diverse backgrounds,” Christy said. 

All of the participating students on the PSU team are undergraduates. The district in which they competed is comprised of schools throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.