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7 Easy Advertising and Communications Focused Classroom Projects

Matt Weingarden

Advertising is evolving rapidly in the new digital frontier. The AMA’s regular coverage of major events, like the NFL’s Super Bowl, offer some fun and timely way to incorporate advertising projects in the classroom. Here is a quick list of seven standby assignments and projects that many instructors have successfully executed.

1. Super Bowl or Large Television Event Assignment

Have students analyze the advertising shown on the Superbowl or something equivalent like the World Cup or the final episode of a popular TV program.  You can add analysis of historical trends.

2. Develop a Communications or Advertising Plan 

An Advertising Plan assignment can be done as an individual or a group assignment.   Students can choose the “client” or you can.  You can restrict it by the size of the firm, or otherwise specify the nature of the plan.

Typical parts of the plan would be (but customize it according to your textbook):

  • Executive summary
  • Analysis of competition and previous advertising by this client
  • Description of the target audience
  • Concise statement of the objectives
  • Description of the advertisement creative strategy and execution
  • Complete description of the media plan
  • Estimated advertising budget
  • Description of research methods which can be used to assess the campaign’s effectiveness.
  • Listing of the external sources used to learn about the client, its industry, and its advertising

Some variations:

  • Assume an organization seeks to build a relationship with a particular group or subculture market. The assignment would begin with a market profile including preferences, habits, and responses of the subculture markets. The assignment can also include a requirement for demographic and geographic information on the subculture, group identity factors such as beliefs, habits, attitudes, values, behaviors; as well as media habits.
  • Develop a program for a target market of children or the elderly. 
  • Redesign a pre-existing advertisement.  Change the copy, change the layout or format.  Can the student improve it?

3. Analyze an Advertisement or Communications Approach

Students look at a pre-existing campaign or ad. Students could write about any or all of the following:

  • The objectives
  • The audience
  • Effectiveness
  • Role in marketing mix
  • Image, product differentiation and branding
  • Other promotion mix factors
  • The unique selling proposition.
  • The basis for the appeal. 
  • How would you make the improvements?
  • The creative philosophy
  • The slogan
  • Secondary or supporting copy points or claims
  • The tone or mood and manner
  • Type of presenter
  • The motivational appeal
  • Executional style

Variation: You pick or the students pick.  Require various media or specify in other ways the ad to be chosen.

Variation: Pick a successful/unsuccessful recent campaign. What went right/wrong? Have others done better/worse?

Variation: Focus on social or ethical aspects. What role does the ad play in the economy?  Does it promote something that is socially desirable?  Is the ad misleading?  Is it targeted to a group that could be considered vulnerable?

4. Compare and Contrast Advertising Approaches

Pick two competitors or two firms in the same category with different target segments and have students compare communications approaches. 

Some possibilities:

  • Pick a online versus brick & mortar retailer.
  • Pick a small company versus a large company.
  • Pick the same firm and compare its communications approaches in the local and a foreign version of the same magazine. Cosmetics and Cosmopolitan magazine would be one example. 
  • Compare ads or commercials for some of the following types: manufacturer and retailer; goods firm and services firm; b2c and b2b; organizational ad, not-for-profit ad, commercial ad. 
  • Compare ads for products at different stages of the product life cycle.  Discussion questions could concern objectives, expenditures, target audiences, and effectivness.
  • Compare magazine ads from different decades.  Discussion could center on gender roles, themes, creative execution, and language. Some magazines you might wish to use include:
  1. News publications
  2. General Interest publications
  3. Female-focused publications
  4. Male-focused publications

5. Analyze an Ad Agency

Analyze the output or style of a particular ad agency. Describe the agency and their portfolio and discuss commonalities.

6. Leverage Local Resources

If there is a nearby convention or trade show have students go and compare strategies for a set of exhibitors.

Interview a marketing communications professional (ad agency worker or person at a company responsible for advertising strategy, creatives, media planners, etc.)

7. Leverage the Internet

Visit research services websites (Example: Simmons-Scarborough Research Services)

  • Describe the type of research services each provides, with a focus on advertising research.  How might an advertiser or ad agency use these sites?  What useful information for an advertiser or agency did you find on these sites?
  • Regarding an ad campaign for a specific product or organization, describe which of these services you would use and how, and describe other primary and secondary sources of information you would also use and the type of information they could yield for you.​

Matt Weingarden, Vice President, Communities & Journals, leads the diverse team that supports the AMA’s network of community leaders from its three broad communities and four scholarly journals.