Classroom campaigns for the real world

January 15, 2013
Students Jillian Fonteyne and Greg Staggolis were two of 30 students who pitched marketing ideas to Tourism Victoria in an assignment that blended classroom learning with real-world networking. Photo credit: Arnold Lim

Picture this: a chalk trail leading to a giant bed, a dynamic video experience that makes the elevator ride the best part of your day and a curious message in the sky sending you in a new direction.

Those ideas and more were offered up by 30 BA in International Hotel Management students as new ways to promote Victoria as a dynamic tourism destination. They presented their work as part of a class assignment and internal case competition to judges from the offices of Tourism Victoria and local design firm Eclipse Creative.

“It’s exciting to have contact with the industry and have professionals come in and see what you can do,” says Royal Roads student Jillian Fonteyne. “The hands-on part of it makes it more unique. This program is really helping you get to where you want to be.”

The campaign pitches were part of the first case competition under the Tourism Victoria Mentorship Program, launched in November 2012. The program also includes internship opportunities for on-the-job training, mentoring and scholarships for post-secondary students.

The experience gave them a chance to learn about marketing and what it takes to put a campaign together, all while testing their presentation skills in front of a very accomplished and award-winning audience, says Assistant Prof. Rebecca Wilson-Mah.

“I wanted them to get a chance to share their ideas with the best,” she says. “That is just such a phenomenal opportunity. These are people that live and breathe marketing.”

The challenge had the students combining social media with traditional and guerrilla marketing tactics to bring their ideas to life. Skywriting, elevator decals and eye-catching transit shelters (designed to look like a seaside patio or spa room) were included in the mix.

With taglines such as “Think again,” “Rest, revive, reinvent” and “Burst your bubble,” the campaigns captured the appeal of Victoria’s recreational, shopping and culinary experiences.

Presenting to a panel of external judges really upped the pressure, says student Greg Staggolis. It was an opportunity to hear different points of feedback and really challenged everyone to do their best.

The teamwork and tight deadline also meant everyone had to communicate well and respectfully consider ideas so the end result was something everyone could support, he says. Being able to watch the other teams present deepened the learning experience.

“Everyone had their own creative ideas,” he says. “You learn from the other groups for sure.”

The assignment was meaningful because you can really see how the lessons will apply to your future career through the balance of theory and practical experiences, Fonteyne adds.

The judges were impressed by the creativity behind all of the campaigns – something that can be lost in everyday business, says Robert Gialloreto, Tourism Victoria CEO and Royal Roads associate faculty member. The projects were also grounded in budgets and practical considerations, he notes, which is key because creativity on its own is nice, but it has to be connected to bottom line results. “Tourism is a serious export business and you have to go about it like any other business,” says Gialloreto of the $1.89-billion dollar industry in Victoria. “At the end of the day it has to be driven by economic benefit.”

The marriage between creativity and business acumen is reflective of the education the students are receiving, he says. Tourism degree programs are relatively new and they are giving students an upper hand for entering the industry. Employers are looking for new hires that are ready to hit the ground running, he notes, and this kind of education enables students to do just that.

“Royal Roads is a great example of applied learning that is modern and up to date,” Gialloreto says. “They are taking some of the greatest young minds and preparing them for the real world. We respect that greatly.”

The students weren’t the only ones benefiting from the assignment either. Trina Mousseau, Tourism Victoria’s director of destination marketing, was one of the judges and worked with the students in advance of the presentations. They asked hard questions and really brought a lot of creativity to their work, she says.

“I left inspired and excited to get back to work,” Mousseau says. “You feed off their energy and it makes you love what you do.”