Online exclusive: Hugs and seatbelts

A Portland State marketing class recently received the Scholastic Achievement Award from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A Portland State marketing class recently received the Scholastic Achievement Award from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The class, under the direction of Professor Don Dickinson, was selected as one of six universities to compete in a contest that required the students to create a seatbelt safety ad campaign focused on the safety of tweens.

Presented with the idea the first day of their Marketing 443 class, “most of [the students] were taken aback,” according to Lacey Tramp, one of the students involved in the campaign.

Many students were indifferent to the idea at first, but “once it got rolling, we became very interested,” Tramp said.

Similarly, fellow student Jesse Pierson felt that the initial reaction was lackluster. But he explained that as the students became more aware of the serious nature of the issue, they were more energetic.

“We had a clear understanding that [not wearing a seatbelt] was an epidemic,” Pierson said.

Work on the campaign itself was done mostly out of class.

“It was a lot of hours, a lot of late nights and early mornings,” Tramp said.

Commenting on the course environment, Pierson said, “It [was] a creative environment where we all thrived…I’ve never been in a class where everyone clicked in such fashion.”

In the campaign itself, the seatbelt was a metaphor for a parent’s hug, according to Dickenson.

“We built the whole thing around this concept,” Dickinson said.

In the ad, a parent’s arms hug in a way that mimics the secure restraint of a seatbelt. The ad’s slogan, “Did you hug your tween today?” is a reminder to parents, reinforcing the importance of seatbelts, according to Dickinson. It was somewhat inspired by a similar seatbelt safety campaign in the United Kingdom where a man is secured by the arms of his wife and daughter in a simulated collision.

Focus groups were used in the creation of the campaign. The students presented parents at youth soccer games with the campaign idea and ad slogan “Did you hug your tween today?” Many were ultimately asked to participate in the focus group.

The focus group’s reaction was recorded in real-time using the relatively new technology, Dialsmith. Dialsmith enables participants to gauge their interest on a handheld device and give instant feedback.

“The parents locked onto the idea immediately,” Dickinson said.

Upon completion of the campaign, three students were selected to travel to Washington D.C. and present it to the NHTSA.

“Six of us presented in front of the class as to why we thought we would be a great candidate to go,” Tramp said.

After the presentation, there was a final vote to narrow the six candidates to three. The students finally selected were Tramp, Pierson and Alexi Parry.

EdVenture Partners made the cooperation of the universities and NHSTA possible.

“They were the middle-men [who] facilitated the experience,” Pierson said.

EdVenture helps enrolled students connect with various real-world industry clients and allows them to create and design advertising ideas or, in many cases, entire campaigns, in order to better reach the college demographic or any other designated market.

The ad campaign created by Dickinson’s class and subsequently presented in Washington D.C. is now in the hands of the NHTSA.

“They own all of the [intellectual property]. It’s up to [them] whether they use it or not,” Pierson said.

He explained that, essentially, the NHTSA now has the creative concepts from six campaigns from which to take new ideas.