Last week, Ithaca College (IC) students worked hard to defend an oft-defamed group: hotdogs. In an advertising competition hosted by the American Advertising Federation in Florida, the IC team defeated over 2,000 other college students from across the country competing to change the public perception of the hot dog.
The competition was sponsored by fast-food chain Wienerschnitzel, which charged participants with creating a $20-million advertising campaign which would change public perception of hot dogs. IC’s winning presentation shared news coverage where mock-defendant Frank W. Furter “fought against false claims to eventually arise victorious,” team co-chair Carlie McClinsey said.
However, this wasn’t the original plan, McClinsey said. The team’s work first began in the fall, when students in a strategic communication class began to research hot dogs. As the competition approached, the group completely shifted gears, re-writing their plan from scratch after a lackluster first idea. Following this last-minute change just a few weeks before the competition deadline—“one of the most stressful decisions I’ve ever been a part of,” she shared—Ithaca College students decided to “Defend the Dog.”
“It’s fun doing the hard work at crunch time,” Jessica Gallagher, a member of the group’s media team said in an IC press release. “We really had a shared bonding experience due to all the late nights.”
The gamble proved successful, and with dogged determination the team scored the cash prize and won the final leg of the competition in Hollywood, Florida, where the final eight teams faced off. Syracuse University placed second in the competition, and Liberty University came in third.
"Congratulations to the Ithaca College team, which created an outstanding campaign that we look forward to utilizing in our marketing,” Doug Koegeboehn, chief marketing officer for Wienerschnitzel, said. “They clearly understood that consumers have false information on the quality of hot dogs and did a great job communicating that hot dogs are actually made with great cuts of meat, just like any other sandwich you would buy at your favorite deli.”
The first-place victory came for Ithaca College in a campaign described as “on the caliber of the best ad agencies,” Koegeboehn said, and the company plans to use the campaign in upcoming marketing plans. It is IC’s first overall win in 26 years; the school previously came in second place in 2011, and last won in 1993.
The competition was part of the American Advertising Federation’s weekend conference, which also highlighted IC Prof. Scott Hamula, advisor for the 22-person team, with the Distinguished Advertising Educator Award. The award is presented annually to the nation’s best advertising professors.
Hamula attributed his students’ victory to the collaborative nature of the Roy H. Park School of Communication, and leaders from across the school praised the achievement. Park School Dean Diane Gayeski lauded the team and the school’s professors for their win, and IC President Shirley Collado offered “warm congratulations” in a post to Instagram.
“Knowing the weight this competition holds in the advertising industry, I’m confident that each of us have acquired the skills to thrive in our careers,” McClinsey said, “and I am forever indebted to Ithaca College and the Roy H. Park School of Communications for pushing us to the top.”