Class project turns into advertising gold, earns national ADDY


It started out as a class assignment. But after advancing through local and regional competitions, a group of BYU communications students won a prestigious national award and had a crowd of the top minds in the industry admiring their ad.

The whirlwind that has spun the last couple of months culminated with BYU’s Michelle Brodrick accepting a Student Gold ADDY and the Student Judges’ Choice Award at the American Advertising Federation’s Student ADDY Awards Competition.

“The only thing I hoped for was to hear the crowd laugh, and it happened,” Brodrick said. “I don’t think it’s quite hit me that we won this national award. What makes me happy is just seeing people’s reaction to it.”

The BYU Communications Department has a history of winning ADDY awards, but this was its first time capturing the Judges’ Choice Award at the competition.

The team, which created an ad for Philips, ended up with the idea of featuring a light bulb so bright that it looked like the post-mortal light at the end of the tunnel.

Brodrick, Kasey Ahlstrom and Brianne Hepworth were the students behind the concept for the ad. They teamed up within the College of Fine Arts and Communications with theatre and media arts student Dallin Cerva, who directed, produced and edited the ad.

There were 296 entries in the Student ADDY Awards this year. Out of those, 40 were awarded with Silver ADDYS, 20 with Gold ADDYS, one with the Judges’ Choice Award and one with the Best in Show Award.

The student team worked tirelessly throughout the semester, brainstorming idea after idea. They would come up with something they thought was great and then take it to their professor, Chris Cutri, who kept pushing them to do better. Brodrick, Ahlstrom and Hepworth referred to the back-and-forth process as frustrating at times, exhausting and refining. In the end, it helped them make the best ad possible.

“We’re always trying to push the creativity,” Cutri said. “Trying to make the pieces compelling. It seems like all great creative pieces, whether it’s literature, some form of music or an ad, are constantly being revised. It’s in this revision process where the work gets better.”

Cutri said it was the unique concept that really set the BYU team’s ad apart. Brodrick said they purposefully chose to create an ad for a company that was fairly ordinary. They wanted to challenge themselves to come up with a concept that would change the way people looked at the product.

“We don’t need to spell it out for people,” Brodrick said. “People are smart. Being able to tell a story and giving the audience an ‘aha’ moment is rewarding. So what I was looking for in the reaction from the audience was just that they got it — that it wasn’t too stupid and it wasn’t too difficult to understand.”

Along with Brodrick and her student team, many other groups from BYU found success at this year’s AAF Awards.

The BYU AdLab Glidden team placed 13th in the nation for its presentation in the AAF National Student Advertising Competition, and Chad Ford and Ahlstrom won a National Silver Student ADDY for their Google Celebrity Book Club project.

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