Missouri School of Journalism’s AdZou team places in top five in National Student Advertising Competition

The AdZou team conducted an Instagram takeover during the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) in Salt Lake City. To watch their takeover, visit Instagram.com/mujschool.

The AdZou team conducted an Instagram takeover during the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) in Salt Lake City. To watch their takeover, visit instagram.com/mujschool.

By Benjamin Miller

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 17, 2024) — AdZou, the full-service marketing and advertising agency operated by strategic communication students from the Missouri School of Journalism, took fourth place in the nation during the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) in Salt Lake City from May 31 to June 1.

AdZou NSAC 1

The AdZou team has made it to the national finals in five of the last seven years, said Holly Higginbotham, strategic communication professor and AdZou’s director for the last decade.

Higginbotham also won the Faculty Advisor of the Year award during the district competition, which was her last; her 22-year career at the School of Journalism came to a close with the spring semester, giving AdZou students the opportunity to send her off with a top national finish.

Through AdZou, strategic communication students conduct research, provide solutions to case studies and establish well-rounded media relationships with local, regional and national clients in order to develop fully-integrated plans. Of those clients, Fox Sports Midwest, Veterans United and Dollar General have all requested campaigns and media solutions from students on the AdZou team.

The AdZou team competing at NSAC, made up of 13 graduating seniors as a part of their final capstone class, worked together to develop solutions to real-world marketing challenges presented to them by this year’s corporate sponsor, Proctor and Gamble’s Tide.

AdZou NSAC 2

In order to make it to the final round of the competition, students must make it through the district level, determined by the university’s geographic location. The AdZou team won the District 9 competition, where they competed against colleges and universities from Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.

The AdZou team then brought its campaign to the national semi-finals where they continued to outperform the competition. The top 8 schools from the semi-finals then competed in the national finals.

Students were tasked by Tide with convincing a target demographic of 18- to 35-year-olds to change their laundry habits by using primarily cold water to wash clothes. The effort was in line with Tide’s sustainability initiative introducing products that work better in cold water, with the ultimate goal of bringing cold water to 75% of laundry loads by 2030.

Higginbotham said that the National Student Advertising Competition is a great way for students to present their work and skills in front of big brands.

AdZou NSAC 3

“I’ve been told repeatedly by industry pros that when they see a resume from a student who competed in the National Student Advertising Competition, they go to the top of the pile because they understand the process they go through during the competition,” Higginbotham said. “That experience fully prepares them to step into their first job after graduation. Not too many advertising or marketing students get the opportunity to share their work in front of a big company.”

In addition to the AdZou team placing fourth overall in the national competition, the students on the presentation section of the team won the Jeanie Ruedy Best Presentation Team Award at the national finals. The four members of the team split the $2,500 award.

“It’s probably the most real-life advertising experience I’ve ever had,” said Carson Bierman, one of the presenters and the creative lead for the AdZou team. “I feel like the competition experience is something that can be overlooked, so any students considering it should definitely do it. The competition, working with Holly Higginbotham and the AdZou team, it’s easily the highlight of my college career.”

AdZou NSAC 4

Kat Klish, the AdZou team’s account manager who acted as the team’s leader and guided the research and strategy part of the process, said that the National Student Advertising Competition was a big jump-start for her career at international advertising firm VML, where she currently works as a strategy intern.

“It never felt like class. The skills that students learn through the competition by preparing for it and actually competing are extremely transferable into the real world setting,” Klish said. “The experience we got through the competition was the best award that could have been offered. My team was the best group of students I’ve ever had the honor of working with at the J-School.”

Klish and Bierman built a professional relationship with Higginbotham throughout all four years of their time at the School of Journalism and found that she was instrumental in shaping the trajectory of their careers into exactly what they were looking for.

AdZou NSAC 5

“It’s rare, people like her don’t come around often,” Bierman said. “She’s the type of professor who knows exactly how to make you a better writer, a better student, a better thinker, a better person without even telling you. Holly sees the talents in her students before they do and she knows exactly how to bring it out of them without forcing them into any boxes. She is all for her students.”

Klish reflected on how influential Higginbotham was throughout the competition and said that she played a large role in helping the team get as far as it did.

“My teammates and I were really lucky to have her around. She truly provided our team with that expert advice and mentorship,” Klish said. “She is by far the best professor I’ve had the chance to grow from while I’ve been at Mizzou.”

The other members of the 2024 National Student Advertising Competition AdZou team were: Sammy Seppala, Samantha Pashkow, Elizabeth Trower, Veronica Gawin, Claire Cramer, Lila Tulp, Rachel Taylor, Emily Higginbotham, Jacob Brase, Cat Curcuru and Rylie Estes.

Updated: June 21, 2024

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