Students learn marketing strategies, develop work experience

By Gwenn Barney

Projects in Marketing is not just another class that’s all about hands-on experience — not… Projects in Marketing is not just another class that’s all about hands-on experience — not only do students learn how to market and advertise, they also learn how to jump-start cars.

Students in Professor Bob Gilbert’s class are participating in a contest that takes them out of the classroom and onto campus: They transformed Schenley Quad into a Chevrolet festival yesterday. The DJ was out and people were playing “Cash Cab”-like games inside four parked vehicles. Gilbert hand-selected the 18-member class — called ProsInMotion — from more than 30 applicants.

The class designed a semester-long marketing campaign for Chevrolet from start to finish as part of a nationwide contest. The team received a $3,000 budget from Chevrolet to conduct the campaign and will present its results in a final project later this semester.

While Pitt students passing through the quad were able to test their trivia knowledge inside four Chevrolets yesterday, members of the campaign were facing a test of their own.

The trivia game was so popular that the car batteries in two of the vehicles died from overuse. Campaign members had to think on their feet to fix the cars and arranged to get some jumper cables. The cars were up and running again in less than an hour.

“In general, everyone was pretty calm,” said ProsInMotion spokeswoman and Pitt student Teresa Bresticker. ”We’ve run into a million roadblocks, and we just have to get around them. Just get a little creative and think outside the box.”

Problems like the one ProsInMotion faced yesterday are typical for an average marketing firm, but not something students usually come to face while in school.

“It’s a shot at applying what they work at in school to a real life situation,” Chevrolet representative Bryan Wunsche said.

Judges from Chevrolet and EdVenture Partners, a marketing education consultancy, will pick which of the 23 schools competing can build the best campaign aimed at Generation Y. The winners take in $5,000, and Pitt’s team is competing against classes from Boston College, Drexel University, University of Arizona, Howard University, California State University and the University of Texas at Arlington.

This is the eighth year a Pitt class has participated in the marketing contest. ProsInMotion members said they have put an average of 14 hours a week into the project.

Yesterday’s event in the Quad, Dare To Be Smart, was the third and final promotional fair for ProsInMotion. The class previously had an event around Homecoming, in addition to participating in Relay for Life. Lauren Smith, team coordinator and a senior marketing major, said the class has made more than 10,000 impressions — meaning the group estimates that more than 10,000 people have seen its chalking, flyers, events or website.

“The class is so much work. So many hours each week. But people know before they sign up that it is a lot of work,” Smith said.

These hours of work include a wide range of activities that comprise the overall campaign. In addition to three events the group has staged under its campaign slogan “Dare To Be,” it has also spent hours spreading the word about Chevy through fliers and chalk, and through the creation of promotional viral videos and a website.

ProsInMotion’s campaign used the Internet to help promote different parts of its campaign. Its self-designed website,, is linked to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

“The Internet sort of links everything together,” Smith said.

The class is also using videos to reach its Generation Y audience, including a parody of Calfornia Swag District’s “Teach Me How To Dougie.” ProsInMotion’s new — and improved, in the class’ opinion — version is called “Teach Me How To Chevy.”

The students already conducted a pre-campaign survey and hope to conduct a post-campaign survey to see if their work influenced students’ opinions about Chevy.

In the pre-survey, the class found that Chevrolet fell behind Ford, Toyota and Honda when students were asked what cars came to mind. Students first associated Chevy with American, affordable, cheap and average, when asked for two positive and two negative adjectives.

The class still has to create a final presentation to be judged by Chevrolet and EdVenture Partners. The final presentation will culminate its semester’s work — a semester that might pay off after graduation.

Pitt alumna Shannon Conlon knows first-hand how working on this marketing project could benefit students. Before graduating in 2006, Conlon was in Gilbert’s class and worked on a marketing campaign for the CIA. Her experience with the campaign helped her land a job with EdVenture Partners after graduation.

“When they go to apply for a position,” Conlon said, “everything they are learning right now is one step above other [college graduates] in line for that position.”

Conlon said that the project is a winning situation for Chevy, as well, because the company is acquiring brand-new tactics and media for how to talk to the college-aged demographic. It’s common for the companies working with this marketing project to expand good student ideas to a regional or even national campaign level, said Tom Cronin, who manages the Pitt account for EdVenture Partners.

Whether they win the overall competition or not, members of ProsInMotion are proud of the work they have produced.

“I think we accomplished more than we thought we could,” team member Christian Kratsas said.

Editor’s Note: Bresticker works for the businesss staff of The Pitt News.