Chenelle Morton and Colleen Sparrow set aside nervousness about the next day’s big presentations and soaked up all the sights they could in New York.
It was their first trip to the Big Apple — all expenses paid, no less — and they were set on enjoying their brief stay.
On little sleep, the 22-year-old Brenau University seniors met with the Heineken USA marketing team and pitched their idea for a national advertising campaign based on a slogan they developed, “You’re not that stupid.”
The two students’ trip got even more memorable soon afterward, as company officials announced they had won the Heineken USA/Effie Collegiate PSA Challenge, which had been open to college students nationwide.
“We wanted to jump up and down, but we had to wait,” Morton said.
“We were trying to be modest in front of the other team,” Sparrow added.
Winning a national contest was far from their thoughts as Morton and Sparrow took on the project initially to fulfill a class project at Brenau.
The two students — now graduates, as of earlier this month — hit an immediate challenge as they began work on the contest entry.
The contest, with a campaign theme of drinking responsibly, required a target audience of men ages 23 to 29 — a missing component of Brenau Women’s College.
A professor was able to guide them to Camp Frank D. Merrill, home of the 5th Army Ranger Training Battalion in Dahlonega.
“I think the thing (Heineken) liked the most about our campaign was that we overcame that (audience) challenge in such a unique way,” Morton said.
In developing the project, the two students formed a focus group and sent out online surveys.
Advisers were “numb to the idea of car crashes” and other serious approaches, Morton said. “We had to take a humorous point of view.”
The students developed “You’re not that stupid” in their brainstorming sessions.
“We had a concept in mind that the walk home could be part of your night out and could be just as fun as the party,” Sparrow said.
“That was the basis of our idea, but we struggled conveying that creatively,” Morton said. Eventually, the idea surfaced that “you can do countless things while under the influence, but the (most stupid) thing you could is drinking and driving.”
The students ended up filming their ad on the downtown square in Gainesville — stills from the shoot are featured in the print ad — because of its closeness to Brenau.
They could use whatever medium they wanted as long as they featured a social networking website. The students ended up creating a Facebook page and developing their campaign to feature TV and print advertisements.
The students just beat their February deadline to submit the entry and learned in April that they were one of two finalists. Heineken received 20 entries.
Heineken officials said the ad campaign was supposed to communicate how consumers should focus on making good decisions when choosing to drink or being around those who drink.
“At the heart of our corporate values is a belief that we have an important role to play in promoting and ensuring responsible behavior related to alcohol consumption,” said Dan Tearno, senior vice president and chief corporate relations officer at Heineken USA.
“This program allows us to tap into some of the brightest minds of the next generation in advertising to ensure that we continue to effectively spread awareness around this issue.”
Also, as part of the contest, the Brenau students — who had squared off against students from Portland State University — won the first ever collegiate Effie. The Effie Awards recognize top advertising and marketing done around the world, on both the professional and collegiate level.
“We are thrilled that Heineken USA recognizes the power of public service campaigns in delivering crucial messages to the general audience and specific consumer groups,” said Mary Lee Keane, Effie president.
For their efforts, Sparrow and Morton split a prize of $3,000.
Morton hopes to cash in further on her big win.
Heineken “told us if we ever found our way to New York to give them a call,” she said. “So, right now, I’m trying to find my way to New York.”
It’s either that or, she hopes, taking part in a post-graduate training program at Turner Broadcasting System in Atlanta.
Sparrow, a native of Canada, said she is hoping to return to Brenau as a graduate student, pursuing a master’s degree in project management.