The School of Advertising and The One Club’s creative boot camp challenged students to think and create outside their comfort zone
By Nina Tabios
There are usually two ways of looking at a competition: either you win, or you lose. But the way The One Club for Creativity designed its creative boot camps, students get a sneak peek into what it’s like creating a client campaign with a room full of strangers. Raw skills, mettle, and patience are what’s put to the test.
“The aim is to mimic an agency,” said NiRey Reynolds, a One Club creative manager and one of the competition’s organizers, on day three of the San Francisco creative boot camp at Academy of Art University. “Most of the people here are big fish, little pond. They’re the best-of-the-best in their arena but then they meet other big fish. So, it’s interesting how it plays out.”
Held on Oct. 1–4, The One Club and the School of Advertising (ADV) hosted its sixth boot camp. Over 50 students were randomized into 11 groups to create a values-based campaign for Blue Shield of California, a client of contest sponsor, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, better known as BSSP.
Blue Shield is often confused with its rival, Blue Cross, which made the brief a particularly tricky topic for many students like Anushka Kandachia and Divij Prakash.
“It’s hard to be passionate about something that you yourself haven’t dealt with a lot,” said Kandachia, a B.F.A. copywriting student. “So, it’s doing good research. In fact, I think we learned more about insurance in the last three days than we ever did before.”
“A topic like this gets you out of your comfort zone,” said Prakash, a B.F.A. art direction student. “But that’s a good thing.”
By day four, the dust had settled and all groups were ready to present. Many students harped upon Blue Shield’s California values, others thought of unique ways to set Blue Shield apart from the competition.
But the winning idea focused on “the small choices.” Mai Yasa and her team, the Surf Squad, put forth a brand message that spoke directly to low-income consumers; how the smaller decisions—every step, ounce, vote, etc.—in health care can go a long way.
“When we were gearing for the concept, we went straight to the customer’s needs,” said Yasa, a B.F.A. creative strategy student. “We wanted to let the people who see the campaign know that Blue Shield just wants them to be healthy.”
Simple and to the point, the Surf Squad won the judges over with a thoughtful approach of putting customers first and letting the brand values shine. The research was crucial in this process, said Enrike Grageda, one of Yasa’s teammates and also a B.F.A. copywriting student, which helped them understand Blue Shield as a company, its California culture and the groups of people that needed its services the most.
“Our insight was that people with lower incomes prioritize differently,” Grageda explained. “They prioritize the basic needs such as food, water, shelter—we wanted to show them that health care doesn’t have to be out of reach for them.”
This approach impressed the judges, including those working directly with Blue Shield, like Betsy Bellotti, who handles the brand marketing, and BSSP Account Manager Caitlin Bricker.
“When you get to look at the values as a brand pillar you get to try to be more provocative in a way that you wouldn’t expect from health insurance,” Bricker said. “When you’re looking at the personality and the values and the culture of the company and their brand, you get to burst out of that box.”
Overall, everyone was impressed with the efforts of the students. “They had the challenge of how do you speak to a wide audience and how to make it personal,” said BSSP Art Director Lynn Nakamura. “They all were really able to inject their personalities into their campaigns.”
For placing at the top, Yasa, Grageda and the rest of the team were granted free entry into the Young Ones competition, a one-year One Club membership that gives them access to resources and benefits and informational interviews with BSSP.
Overall, students like Kandachia and Jomelle Nara Montillo all had positive takeaways from the boot camp experience.
“I had a good time. It was a lot of fun, we made a good campaign that I can put into my portfolio. And I did some networking,” Kandachia said.
“Once you get into the process, you just start having fun,” said Montillo, an M.F.A. art direction student. “I might win, I might not win. But at the end of the day, I collaborated with a bunch of great people. I made some friends and we ended up getting something I can say I did and be proud of—and we did it in three days!”