I’m so excited to share that my East Tennessee State University class won first place in District 7 of the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition! This is our school’s second year in a row winning at Districts, and I couldn’t be more proud. 

We traveled all the way to the University of Alabama to compete this past weekend. Our presenters spent the six-and-a-half-hour drive running through our planned presentation over and over again, the slides pulled up on a laptop at the front of the car. Although I wasn’t a presenter and spent the trip in a different van talking about religious trauma with my professor (it was a wild ride), my anxiety was still through the roof. 

Throw a new stomach medication into the mix, and competition day on Saturday was quite the nerve-wracking experience. 

East Tennessee State University is no stranger to NSAC. In the past five years that our school has competed, we’ve placed first in Districts four times. Our team was massive this year, with over 20 students from the media and communications, graphic design, and digital media majors. We had graphic designers, videographers, animators, strategists, and more. 

I was on the accounts side, focusing on our campaign’s marketing, strategy, and analytics. I conducted campaign research, wrote our plans book, and told designers what to make. I even got to try my hand at a few of the creative elements of our campaign.

Starting in January, our biweekly meetings slowly turned into late-night production sessions as the semester progressed. This competition was supposed to simulate what it’s like to work in a real advertising agency, and that’s precisely what it did. I feel so much more prepared now to apply these skills at Little Red Writing. 

The competition day started bright and early with the first team presenting at 8:30 in the morning. I decided to watch every single one of the eight teams until the last presentation ended at 5 p.m. Each 20-minute presentation raised my anxiety level just a little bit more: all of the competing schools had some really good ideas, and I’m so proud of our generation of students. I know they’re going to do great things. 

As soon as our presenting team stepped off the stage, it felt like the world’s weight was lifted off my shoulders. I couldn’t believe how exceptional their performance was. It felt like our entire semester of grueling work was finally paying off. Our whole team immediately ran out on the patio, jumping up and down and hugging each other. We didn’t even care if we had won; we were just so excited to finally have seen our work on the big screen. 

After several more presentations and almost getting trampled at an Alabama Crimson Tide afterparty, the judges read off the winning teams. Dizzy with excitement, our team gathered around to take a million pictures with our new plaque. Finally, we realized we were starving to death, and we closed the night with Mexican food at the Central Mesa restaurant. 

The National Student Advertising Competition was one of the most valuable experiences of my undergrad. Although I can’t tell you anything about our campaign (shhh, it’s a secret), I can tell you that crafting a campaign requires an insane amount of creativity and communication with your team members. 

I am so grateful for my professors and classmates, and of course, to AAF for hosting this competition. Fingers crossed that you’ll see another post from me after nationals. 😉