Every COM student is required to take a series of classes, one of which is COM 201. This introductory course gives students a taste of what it is like to write for the many fields offered within the College of Communication. We learn to write hard news stories, features, screenplays, reviews, obituaries, memoirs and more, and each assignment not only sharpens our writing skills but also exposes us to the type of specific writing we may be doing our entire lives. I know, the thought of practicing for a future career sounds daunting for me too, but there is no better way to begin than with the baby steps of COM 201.
As the semester’s flown by, I have loved each style of writing we have attempted to tackle. However, none have been as alien to me as the Public Service Announcement. Aside from studying persuasive writing in high school, I knew little about creating an advertising campaign. Aside from watching a few episodes of Mad Men, I knew little about presenting a campaign pitch. This one was totally new for me, not to mention far from any project I expected to encounter in the future. My major, Film and Television, did not seem to have much in common with a major in Advertising, yet two weeks ago when we received the assignment, I was anxious to give it a try anyway.
Our professor, Chelsey Philpot (I encourage you to Google her if you would like to be impressed) split us into small groups that would be our teams for the project. I pushed my desk toward the two other students, both of whom I barely knew, and we started to toss around ideas…well, we tried to.
It did not take long for us to get totally stuck. We were not sure if we could create our plan for a print ad, or if we were enthusiastic enough about the non-profit organization we chose to promote. “Good idea, but I don’t think that will work…” was said again and again, and after a while I thought this project might be my COM 201 downfall.
“Let’s think of another type of advertising. It doesn’t have to be print,” said Justin, a sophomore in the group studying journalism.
“Well, I can edit film if we want to make a commercial,” I offered, and with that, the tone of our first meeting changed in an instant. Ideas spilled out on top of one another as we crafted a humorous and simple commercial that would be perfect for a younger audience. By the end of the class we had finished a full storyboard, and I found myself adding these two almost-strangers as friends on Facebook and planning to meet up with them that weekend. Sure, we were meeting for a project, but we would be filming and acting in our own PSA. The meeting was far from mandatory as we could have designed a print ad in class and called it a day, but for some reason each one of us wanted to go that extra mile.
A week later we stood before our quiet classmates and began our final presentation. Although we had an outline of what we wanted to say, the three of us barely looked its way. We had invested ourselves in the campaign and in turn did not need a guide to tell us why we made certain choices, what we wanted to accomplish, and how our campaign would accomplish it. The commercial was woven seamlessly into our oral presentation, and by the end students seemed to sit up a little straighter and listen a little closer.
“Please send me a copy of that video!” Professor Philpot said when we finished. “Great job. You clearly put a lot of work into this.”
The funny thing is, we didn’t. We didn’t put a lot of work into creating our idea because it came easily to us. We didn’t put a lot of work into filming because it was a lot of fun. I didn’t put a lot of work into editing because it is something I love to do anyway, and we didn’t put a lot of work into preparing the presentation because we had learned everything we needed along the way. The PSA assignment did not feel like a typical school assignment at all. I did learn plenty from the process, including that advertising can certainly relate to film and television, but I would happily volunteer to film another one any day.
Needless to say, this entire semester in COM 201 has helped me solidify my choice to enter the College of Communication. Even a project as foreign to me as a Public Service Announcement turned into an experience I will fondly remember, and I think it is a good indication of how much fun my “work,” both in college and in my career, will continue to be.