If you were a marketing student, what would you do with $200? Groups of students from colleges and universities worldwide will be given $200 to spend on AdWords campaigns for local businesses as part of a Google Online Marketing Challenge.
Participating students will team in groups of four to six to work with small or local businesses that have Web sites but are not already using AdWords. Each group will have three consecutive weeks between February 10 and May 24 to outline a strategy, run a campaign, and assess results for its designated business. Two competition reports, one at the start of the three-week period and a second at the campaign’s conclusion, are required of participating teams.
Lee Hunter, product marketing manager at Google, hatched the idea after speaking to one of his college professors from his alma mater in Australia. Hunter and his professor kicked off a contest in his class with a similar format to the Online Marketing Challenge. “The feedback from the businesses was amazing,” Hunter said. “They got new business, and didn’t realize how easy it was to advertise online.”
By the end of the three-week period, students are obligated to provide their local business clients with recommendations to further develop their online marketing plans. While Google clearly benefits from the influx of new business, the goal was “really just about creating an interesting teaching and learning opportunity,” Hunter said.
“Giving students experience in a live working environment is invaluable to understanding how marketing really works,” said Heidi Cohen, adjunct professor at New York University’s Masters of Science in Integrated Marketing program and ClickZ columnist. NYU currently has three teams signed up to participate, and more are likely to be added before the entry period closes.
“While students can intellectually comprehend a subject, actually putting that knowledge to work makes the experience more real to them. I think that the Google Online Marketing Challenge is a critical component in teaching students how search really works because they can see the results of their actions. This is especially important for a subject like search,” Cohen said.
As part of past years’ curricula at NYU’s Integrated Marketing program, students have worked on a variety of projects with companies such as SAP, Bookspan, 1-800 Flowers, Redcats, and PRWeb. Most recently Cohen’s students developed online marketing plans for Tom Deierlen’s TD Foundation, and students are able to participate in the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation’s Collegiate Echo Awards.
Google’s original goal for the Online Marketing Challenge was to have 200 participating classes worldwide. Mostly through word of mouth the challenge has drawn 724 university teams in the U.S. with two weeks remaining for new teams to enroll.
An international panel of professors will judge the contest. Global and regional winners will be announced in July. Winning team members will receive a trip to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. On Google’s campus students will get to meet the team that created AdWords and be introduced to high-level Google executives, though the agenda may be left somewhat open. Hunter expects each student will want to do different things, and during their seven days at Google they will be “given the best opportunity possible.”