2014 National Student Advertising Competition

The National Student Advertising Competition is a two-semester class in which our "agency," creates a full advertising campaign for the client assigned by the AAF. This year's client, Mary Kay, presented us with four objectives: increase awareness, positive perception, consideration for selling, and consideration for purchasing Mary Kay among females age 18-25.

Getting Started

Our first action once we all met was to name our agency. After some debate, we decided on KATO Advertising. The letters that form KATO each represent the first names of our members.

Once we settled on our name, we began our research. First, we studied Mary Kay as a company. We learned about their history, selling method, and their current advertising and social media efforts. Once we felt comfortable with our knowledge of Mary Kay, we then moved on to studying the competitors, such as Avon, Urban Decay, and Sephora. After tackling the corporate side of our research, we knew it was time to start getting to know our target audience.

Washington D.C

KATO got to experience an early team building opportunity when we went to Washington D.C. for the AAF Insight/Interaction 2013 Student Conference on Advertising. This two-day conference gave us incredible insights on how to prepare for a job interview, what to include in our portfolios, how to distinguish our work from the competition, and much more. The highlight of the trip was listening to the keynote speaker, Brandon Rochon, the Global Creative Director of Leo Burnett, talk about his experience in the advertising industry. He showed us some of his campaigns while talking about his life; not a jaw was left un-dropped. He inspired all of us to be audaceous in our education, work, and our daily lives.

Research: Target Audience

To fully understand our target audience, we utilized many research methods, including surveys, focus groups, ethnographies, and even a fashion show. With these and other research methods, we were able to reach over 30 states and 1,300 research impressions. All of these methods gave us many insights about our target audience, but four findings were particularly relevant to our campaign.

The first finding is that female millennials have a disconnect between what they say and do. They say that price is the most important factor when they purchase makeup, yet they purchase expensive brands like MAC and Urban Decay, but not Mary Kay. The reason for this our second finding, that millennials perceive Mary Kay to be outdated and uncool. Our third finding proved an idea we already had about our target audience, which was millennials want things fast and their way. Our final key finding was that millennials use their makeup to feel confident and empowered.


Research: Mary Kay

In addition to our insights about our target audience, we also found several key insights about Mary Kay as a brand. We found their current line for millennials, Mary Kay @ Play, was clearly missing the mark when it came to reaching its audience. @ Play was missing the most used makeup products by members of our target audience, the packaging was considered cheap, the current ads were unrelatable, and the idea of playing with makeup was not appealing to women who consider themselves full adults. 

To go along with these insights, we also scruitinized the Mary Kay party method, the Independant Beauty Consultants, Mary Kay's website, and the brand's presence and behavior on social media. We found that the parties were perceived as boring and rigid, the IBCs were perceived to be pushy, Mary Kay's website was hard to navigate and took 9 clicks just to reach the checkout page, and that Mary Kay's presence on social media was inadequate and infrequent, in addition to many other findings.

The Big Idea

After A LOT of deliberation and failed ideas, we finally came up with our big idea... Power. Members of our target audience have strong negative perceptions regarding Mary Kay, and need equally strong reassurance that the brand has changed. Our research continually revealed that female millennials wear makeup to boost self-confidence and make them feel sophisticated and sexy. They prefer a technology-driven shopping experience, and most of all, they want the power to choose where and when they purchase their makeup. Finally, they want instant assistance when they need help.

Here’s where the word “power” comes into play. By acknowledging their need for power – the power of confidence, sophistication, attraction, and choice - Mary Kay is relating to millennials in a bold, exciting way, while still maintaining its brand identity of empowering women. To effectively communicate what we know to be true about members of our target audience, we have to underscore our bold message with equally bold promotional content. Once this content puts Mary Kay back on their radar, we are confident that a makeover of the Mary Kay @Play line combined with a more convenient purchase model will allow Mary Kay to become a preferred brand in the minds of female millennials. This preference will increase the consideration for members of our target audience becoming Mary Kay sellers.

Making Our Plans Book

Easily the most stressful part of our campaign was putting together our final plans book. We didn't come up with our big idea until there was only a week left before our spring break, and only two weeks until our deadline. We worked constantly, pulling multiple all-nighters, the first week up until spring break just to compile all of our data into our rough draft plans book.

If that wasn't stressful enough, half of our team went away on vacation during spring break. This meant that all of the revisions and additions would have to be done by myself and two other people. At first I thought this wouldn't take very long to complete, but after I spent two whole days at my kitchen table working on nothing but the plans book, I changed my opinion. I had no spring break, I just worked on the plans book until the due date that Friday. It was a ton of hard work, but it was incredibly satisfying being able to finally hit "submit" and be finished creating our campaign.

The Rehearsals

After we submitted our plans book, we were able to take a break for about five minutes before scrambling to prepare our presentation. We divided up which parts we each wanted to talk about during our 20 minute presentation, and we worked together to create a Prezi that displayed our work in an engaging way.

We rehearsed constantly to the point that I was even having dreams about our presentation. Through the two weeks leading up to our actual pitch, we never had a perfect rehearsal. Even the day we got into NYC to present, we practiced in our hotel room and messed up a few times. We were all nervously anticipating our real pitch, but at the same time we were confident that we knew our parts well. 

The Results

We killed our presentation! After never having a perfect practice we had a perfect final pitch. We were elated and hugged each other as soon as we finished. It was such a relief to not only be done, but to know that we did the absolute best job that we could.

We had to wait until the next day to hear the results, so we celebrated that night and watched other schools present the next day up until the judges' decision. Out of the 14 schools that competed in our district, we got 5th place. The top four schools have their entire communications departments working on this competition all year with large budgets, meanwhile we had 6 people and almost no money. I'm incredibly proud of where we placed and I love my team!