BYU home to a new type of advertising

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Click. Click. Click.

After being bombarded by fliers left on doorsteps and windshields, BYU students are now seen clicking their way through a more successful approach to advertising.

The concept is simple: click a virtual button online at the right moment and win prizes valued up to $250 every day. If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. Just ask the creators of the Hit List.

“When you read a newspaper or watch a TV show, what the student gets from it is entertainment or information in exchange for looking at a product,” Andrew Stewart, CEO of Collegiate Advertising, said. “So the premise of the Hit List is to compensate students monetarily for their viewership.”

Late October marked the return of the Hit List, an online phenomenon designed to reward students for time spent looking at ads. The Hit List first appeared when Collegiate Advertising, the think tank behind the project, ran a brief beta test for the summer.

Created as the solution for annoyed students and businesses who were having a hard time reaching their audience, Andrew Stewart, Joseph Meservy and Devin Killpack, who started Collegiate Advertising four years ago, approached businesses with their plan. Several companies signed on.

“Businesses have loved it because the students love it,” Stewart said. “Businesses want to go where students are, and students are on the Hit List. The Hit List provides a cool way to reach students that’s much more engaging than they currently have.”

As of Nov. 12, the Hit List now grants hidden prizes, randomly given out to clickers who help move the count along but who do not click on a winning number. Each day one grand prize is given away, and between 20 and 30 students win smaller prizes. But there is something the Hit List is doing that makes it even more unique: donating a grain of rice for every single click.

Australian Aid, an overseas government aid program, teamed up with the Hit List and helps purchase and deliver several hundred pounds of rice to people in need every few weeks. Rice was chosen because it is quantifiable, and students so far have really loved the chance to give back.

“I think the rice donations are awesome,” Danielle Hanson, a Hit List winner, said. “Obviously it’s catching on really fast so they could do some real good. The fact that it’s humanitarian gives the Hit List that much more appeal, so I’m excited about it.”

The HITLIST team believes in personal, face-to-face contact. They refer to their advertising efforts as “boots on the ground,” with lots of door-to-door knocking and talking about the Hit List.

BYU junior Emma Vidmar, a recent grand prize winner, was one of thousands of students whose apartment was visited personally by the Hit List team. Between the mini-whiteboard left with her roommates and word of mouth from her friends, Vidmar soon learned all about what the Hit List had to offer her.

“I mozied on over to the website and figured out what was going on,” Vidmar said. “I was like, ‘Free stuff for answering some questions and I’m giving to charity while I waste my time? Cool.'”

As the Hit List continues to gain popularity with students in Utah County, the Ownership team looks to what the future has in store. Players will soon be able to choose their charity as well as their prize, allowing for more personal interest in clicks. Larger donations, such as international microfinance loans, will be given away on Sundays.

The biggest change for the Hit List, however, will be its eventual national expansion. Although a few test runs of the Hit List were done in Texas prior to reaching BYU, Provo was where the concept was developed and fully publicized. The Hit List team has obtained patent protection for its idea and intends to continue perfecting the site as the members take it to other universities across the country.

“We’re very excited about the technology,” Stewart said. “We know that (there are) some failings with traditional media, and also some failings that we’re starting to see with online media. We’re excited about the opportunity in the marketplace for a tool like this. The Hit List will go national, and BYU is and has been the launchpad.”

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