In June 2016, an interdisciplinary team of fifteen Advertising Design, Graphic Design and Motion Design students arrived at Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, CA.

It was their last stop on a three-part journey. Ringling College had made it to the final round of the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC).

The Sweet Spot

In 2016, corporate sponsor Snapple challenged students to develop innovative business solutions to increase purchase frequency among 18–49 year olds in the United States.

During research and testing, Ringling students found that the things people loved most about Snapple—the pop of the cap, the real facts underneath the cap, the glass bottle—were all odd little characteristics of the brand.

So they developed a campaign under the tagline, “That’s Oddly Satisfying.” They decided to transform the iconic Snapple pop into a symbol, a celebration of the indefinable delights in life like that first scoop of peanut butter, or hitting an exact dollar amount at the gas pump.

I still remember the day the students came up with the idea. Allen Harrison, who co-teaches the NSAC course with me, pulled me in from the other room and said, “You have to hear this.” After the students pitched the Oddly Satisfying concept, we looked at each other and got goosebumps.

We knew the team had something special.

Winning Florida

From there, the students got down to the nitty gritty of developing the creative executions—TV commercials, in-store promotions, packaging, web design, transit and even a “Nod to the Odd” Tour, a traveling social media experience where Snapple finds and honors the most oddly satisfying people, places and events in the nation.

The students spent many late nights and week-ends agonizing over every detail of the campaign, anticipating the moves of the other schools and figuring out ways to gain an edge. We watched tapes of previous national winner’s presentations, reviewed their plans books, took notes and made adjustments to our strategies.

The Ringling College NSAC team of advertising design, graphic design, and motion design students and faculty.

It’s one of the most intense experiences in the Ringling College curriculum. Robson Tan (Advertising Design, ’17), member of the NSAC creative team, agrees, “NSAC at Ringling is really special. We run it like a real life agency. We have different teams working on different things, but all together in synergy. NSAC is more than just a class or competition. It’s really an experience that stretches you beyond your comfort zone.”

This became evident when the team submitted their 27-page plans book a mere 35 seconds before the 5:00 pm deadline on March 25, 2016. I noticed an error with some of the media planning charts around 4:00 pm, and the team could have thrown their hands up saying, “Oh well, it’s too late.” But they did the exact opposite.

Matthew Bongiolatti (Graphic Design, ’17), the Creative Director of the NSAC team, and Robson Tan, kicked things into high gear. They split up the pages that needed corrections and hammered out the adjustments. They hardly said a word to each other, but their intentions were clear—they refused to lose points, at any cost.

It was a risk that paid huge rewards when we won first place in our district competition. One of the judges, a former VP and Creative Director at Ogilvy, gave the Ringling team a standing ovation after their pitch. It was a sight I’d never seen.

We beat out eight other schools, including previous national champions, University of Miami and University of West Florida, to take the district win. We were the only art and design college among the 21 schools in the semi-final round. And when we were named one of eight teams moving on to the finals, we had beaten out prestigious colleges like Boston University, DePaul University and Chapman University.

What is NSAC?

Each year, 150 schools compete in the NSAC, sponsored by the American Advertising Federation. The AAF divides the country into 15 districts, and students must win in their district in order to advance to semi-finals, where they compete for one of eight spots in the finals.

Each year, the competition features a different corporate sponsor, or client. The client provides the stu-dents with a real world case study outlining the history of their product and current marketing challenge.

Students must

• Research the product, its competition and target audience.

• Identify problem areas and create an integrated communications campaign.

• Deliver their campaigns through a 27-page plans book and a 20-minute pitch, each scored by a panel of
industry judges, including client representatives.

To the Top

In Anaheim, the Ringling NSAC team delivered a flawless presentation to a ballroom packed with hundreds of spectators. There was not one stumble, awkward pause or forgotten line. Allen and I couldn’t have asked any more of them. At the awards luncheon the next day, we won Best Plans Book, awarded by Simmons Research, and Third Place.

We had beaten 147 other teams and most were three times our size.

It was only fitting that such a magical year ended at Disneyland, the most magical place on earth. Chris Campbell (Advertising Design, ’17), member of the Ringling Presentation Team, summed up the experience, “It’s life changing. I’ve been through the Marine Corps, I’ve had kids, I’ve experienced a lot of life events that are really special, and this is right up there. This is absolutely one of the best experiences of my life.”

By Vivian Owen
Vivian Owen is a faculty member of the Ringling College Advertising Design department and recipient of the 2016 Ringling College Educator of the Year award. She is the faculty advisor for Ringling’s AAF College Chapter and co-advises the Ringling College NSAC team with Graphic Design faculty, Allen Harrison.

To learn more about our recent awards, view our website.