MSU Advertising Students "Pay It Forward"

Posted on: September 16, 2013

This fall, the College of Communication Arts & Sciences advertising students participated in the Protect America Cares "Pay It Forward" Challenge.

The challenge requires participating student teams or "agencies" to develop a comprehensive campaign for a local charity client of their choice. They then create an integrated multimedia promotional business plan that generates awareness and revenue for the client. The team that raises the most awareness and funds for their charity wins. Seven teams participated in the challenge.

"The 'Pay It Forward' Challenge has been a great experience. Not only have we been given the opportunity to show our skills with brand management, advertising and social media, but we have been able to help a nonprofit who could really use our services," advertising senior David James said about his experience working with Gateway Community Services charity.

Charities selected for the fall 2012 semester challenge were: Shiawassee County Humane Society, The Reading People, Gateway Community Services, Greater Lansing Food Bank, Pet Support Services of Lansing, the Christo Rey Community Center and Her Power! Her Pride! Her Voice!

"I've always enjoyed working on the big brand ad campaigns; but this time, we can help smaller, more needy businesses and hopefully do a lot of good things for them in the process," instructor Dave Regan said.

Regan teaches the integrated campaigns advertising courses that are participating in the challenge. The challenge was initially conceived last spring by Protect America Cares and Regan with help from alumnus Adam Grant. The challenge engages MSU advertising student talents to address the fundraising and promotional needs of local charitable organizations by implementing a real campaign.

Protect America Cares (the charitable arm of Protect America, Inc.) supplies each team with a $500 stipend to use toward their campaign and a video camera to document their journey. The students build websites, integrated campaigns, build a strong company brand using graphics and slogans, and plan fundraising events, among other things.

Upon the conclusion of the initial challenge in spring 2012, the student agencies raised over $10,000 for their organizations and had their proposed campaign materials and techniques implemented by their clients.

The fall 2012 semester's teams raised over $13,800 in donations, as well as 1,248 books, 500 lbs. of food, electronics, branded clothing and more.

Creative advertising senior Carolyn McLean said their donations had already made it possible for a woman to take her pet to the vet. McLean and team Songbird Media volunteered at a Pet Photo Shoot to benefit Pet Support Services with Lights on Photography, and they hosted a benefit dinner at a local area restaurant.

"Not only is my team getting the chance to develop a complete campaign pitch, but we have also been given the chance to make a difference in the community that has given us so much," said advertising senior Kelsey Ransdell of Vantage Point Media agency, which collected 1,248 books for the Capital Area Literacy Coalition.

The charities selected by the students for the inaugural campaigns in the spring of 2012 campaigns were Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center, For Better Independent Assistance Dogs, Haven House, Help a Willing Kid Foundation (HAWK), Hosanna House of Michigan, Hungry Hands and Sleep Tight.

"The Pay It Forward Challenge was a great experience for our organization," Help a Willing Kid Foundation founder and coach Ali Easley said. "The group we worked with, Top Hat Media, not only helped bring awareness to our program, as well as raise funds for our mission, but they have continued to stay actively involved... [they helped] tutor several kids and helped cook for a group of kids."

Janet Gross, Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center program manager said, "The Pay It Forward Challenge has helped us in a big way, for getting our name out there more. The Facebook page, for one, has generated an enormous amount of help and recognition and exposure to the community and across the globe! I think it has also increased our volunteers, too. It was a wonderful experience for us!"

"(The) Protect America (Challenge) is valuable as real company experience with executives following and critiquing student work as professionals," Regan said. "I think this project makes our students feel very proud as they leave something positive behind in their collegiate career."

"This opportunity is a perfect example of 'paying it forward.' Our students are exposed to real world interactions and experiences with actual clients, and the charities receive a strategic marketing campaign, which will result in funding to continue to grow," said Dean Pamela Whitten. "This project truly benefits all parties involved; it's a wonderful partnership."

Due to its great success, Protect America Cares and the college plan to continue the "Pay It Forward" campaign in upcoming semesters.

"Being in an advertising class that lets me help others and learn at the same time is awesome. It feels great to 'pay it forward,'" Conner Doyle, advertising management senior said.

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