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AdClass Gives Mary Kay Cosmetics a Makeover

by Alexandra Butler ’15

AdClass students at Washington and Lee University are giving the makeup industry a taste of its own medicine at the district level of the National Student Advertising Competition on April 4 in Raleigh, N.C.  The 22 W&L students in this year’s AdClass will be pitching a new advertising campaign for Mary Kay to four judges, including the director of corporate integrated brand marketing for Mary Kay.

Every year, over 150 universities compete in the NSAC challenge to create an advertising campaign for the selected client.  The American Advertising Federation Education Services department created and oversees the undergraduate competition.  This year there will be 15 districts competing, as well as one virtual district.

Mary Kay presented the students with three objectives to fulfill: increase brand awareness, increase positive perception of the company and increase consideration for product purchase among women ages 18 to 25.  The case study focuses on expanding Mary Kay’s Botanical Effects, Clear Proof and At Play product lines.  The students created a campaign aimed at millennial women that would run from February 2015 to February 2016.

The brand, founded by Mary Kay Ash in 1963, is based on the principle of the Golden Rule.  Unlike most of its competitors, Mary Kay products are sold through a direct selling model.  Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants, or IBCs, personally sell the products to their clients.

Students from the class say that the toughest obstacle was overcoming the matronly stigma associated with Mary Kay.

“At first, we all associated Mary Kay with grandmothers and pink Cadillacs,” says junior AdClass student Julia Lancaster.

However, after analyzing Mary Kay’s competitors and interviewing women in the target market, the members of AdClass began to see the advantages of using Mary Kay.

“The unique business model Mary Kay offered allowed us to create executions that highlighted the intimacy and personalization of the company,” says senior Katherine D’Innocenzo, a copywriter in AdClass.

After months of hard work, the students are both excited and nervous to present the finished product.  They will be working around the clock to perfect the presentation until the day of competition.  While details of the campaign will remain secret until the day of competition, the students feel as though they have found a way to make Mary Kay stand out in the beauty industry.

“I’m really excited about the quality of the work we’ve produced, and I hope that our hard work pays off at the district competition,” says senior Colleen Paxton.  This is Paxton’s second year in the course.  She served as project manager last year and now holds the title of chief executive officer.

According the students, W&L’s toughest competition will be the University of Virginia, who placed first over W&L at last year’s district competition.  Even though the students hope to win, they are still excited to see what the competitors have to offer.

“I am really excited, not only for our own presentation to come together, but also to see what other schools have come up with for Mary Kay,” says D’Innocenzo.

Professor Amanda Bower teaches AdClass, which is open to juniors and seniors of all majors.  Each student in the class is assigned to a different team, whether that is copywriting, new business or data and analytics.  The course is great for students interested in advertising and those who are unsure.

Follow AdClasss on Twitter @wluadclass for updates on the day of competition.  If you are interested in joining AdClass next year, speak to Professor Bower and look for applications in the fall.