Ad agency breaks marketing students out of the bubble
LAU students work on marketing strategy for Leo Burnett.
“I clearly remember a student project that we presented to executives of a Lebanese brand, suggesting a complete marketing strategy for one of their products,” recalls Youmna Asmar, senior strategic planner at advertising agency Leo Burnett. “It was one of the best learning experiences at university, so I hope we’re giving them that,” she adds, referring to the LAU students who benefitted from a commercial assignment set by the agency as part of a course on consumer behavior.
Course coordinator Nadia Azzam has been teaching at LAU since 1993 and has for the past few years, since taking on the consumer behavior course, brought in various collaborators. “It’s great for the students to apply the theory we teach them to the Lebanese market. Working on projects with agencies and clients in the industry expands their horizons, prevents plagiarism and gives them something great to put on their CV.”
Consumer behavior is a core course for students majoring in marketing and as such the 91 students enrolled in the course last semester were taught in parallel by three instructors; Azzam and her colleague Annelie Baalbaki in Beirut, and Abeer Rawas in Byblos. “You mustn’t only start thinking on a practical level after you graduate. There’s only so much theory can teach you,” says Rawas, stressing the importance of industry collaboration. “Interacting with real clients and breaking out of the bubble is essential for students.”
Students of all three sections were asked by Leo Burnett to identify and understand the behavior of youth in relation to drinking tea and coffee. “Our client produces and sells teas in a coffee drinking country,” explains Asmar. “The students were given the challenge of understanding and analyzing the behavior and strategizing communication activities to change it in favor of the client’s needs.”
Eighteen groups of students presented their pitch to Asmar and her colleagues, including a HR executive. “We use this opportunity to spot talent. If I see a prospective employee present a pitch, I learn a lot more about them that at an interview,” shares Asmar.
Marketing student Sabine Abdallah enjoyed the opportunity to show off her talent. “Working for a real client on a real project adds to the pressure,” she says. “I wasn’t working only for a good grade, I was working to impress a prospective employer.”
Abdallah hopes that her group will be among the three selected by Leo Burnett to present their strategy to the tea-making client at their offices: “I definitely want to get noticed and be the best in their eyes.”