Competitors at the 2017 One Show Greater China Festival will be creating an advertising campaign for Chevrolet over the next week. But before any ideas can be sent over to the automobile company, conference attendees needed to form each of their competing teams.
And marketing yourself is sometimes as difficult as marketing an entire car brand — the first test for the advertising and public relations students from Michigan State University.
Coming into the festival, the four MSU-teams each chose a name of an infamous character from the SpongeBob SquarePants series. Amanda McCafferty’s group picked “Team Hash-Slinging Slasher” but shortened it to “Team Hash” for easier translation into Chinese. The name was later scrapped over concerns of the word being slang for marijuana.
“We don’t want to be remembered as the weed group,” McCafferty said.
Later opting for “Team SpongeBaoBao,” McCafferty and her group members were on the hunt for additional members. Each group is allowed a max of seven people, and the majority of attendees assemble their groups during the first day of the conference.
The challenge? Finding other skill sets that complement the skills already in your group. Some of the searches involved sending pitches to a conference-wide group messaged on WeChat, China’s most popular messaging application. For Team SpongeBaoBao, locking in a talented videographer and producer was a high priority.
One of the first groups they formed didn’t fit their dynamic — too many writers and nothing filling the missing skills. Even after being turned away, the other attendees remained friendly and even encouraged the MSU students to reach out on WeChat if they ever stop by in Hong Kong.
Auditioning new members proved difficult at times. While recruiting groups like Team SpongeBaoBao can show off online portfolio work to woo prospective additions, the Chinese-English language barrier limits what can be used. Those with a copy editing skill, for example, can’t show off their English text to anyone who isn’t able to read it.
This was further complicated in groups who lacked a fluent translator to communicate abstract thoughts, going beyond basic conversational skills and into serious brainstorming. This is especially important in providing insight into another culture.
“We need to find someone who really knows Chinese culture (to) avoid making something overly Americanized,” ADPR student Marissa Ceccato said, part of a yet-unnamed team.
One of the featured speakers during the conference’s first day was a representative of Chevrolet who praised Chevy cars as being parked alongside other American icons like baseball and apple pie, citing upwards of 750 songs featuring lyrics about the brand. In China, however, Chevy is not nearly as romanticized. That’s where the advertising ideas come in.
When the registration period began at 6:00 P.M., attendees had approximately one more hour to secure their final group if that had not already. As creative minds began steaming out of the hall and into the center’s main lobby, a sea of signs rose among the crowd.
“NEED TWO MORE!”
“DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?”
Team SpongeBaoBao’s Maddie Guzzo held up a crinkled sign (that was previously used as a paper airplane by very relaxed ADPR professor Henry Brimmer, trip organizer) looking for someone with video production skills. Minutes later, she turned to her groupmates with a new face nearby.
“This girl does Adobe After Effects,” Guzzo said with a wide grin.
In the final minutes of the registration period, several groups were still looking for additional members to create a well-rounded team. All of MSU’s teams secured their members on time after a particularly stressful few hours.
Professor Brimmer, who swore to remain largely hands-off, offered a small piece of advice at the end of the day: “I think you’re freaking out too early.”
Tomorrow’s blog post will feature each of the four MSU-based teams and their additional members. Follow @msucomartsci on for live updates on our Instagram story.