Paul Holmes 07 Jul 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
The request "Dad, please send money" may come to mind when thinking of college students, but this influential and trend-setting demographic actually wields a combined annual spending power of $180 million, making it invaluable to marketers. This basic notion gave birth to College Broadcast, a cross-platform media and marketing company targeting the 15 million college students in the United States. Leveraging its own on-campus cable TV networks and broadband entertainment Web site, College Broadcast delivered content and advertisers' messages straight into dorm rooms nationwide. Meanwhile, College Broadcast was able to gather and report valuable research on the target market back to its advertisers.
College Broadcast was adept at reaching students on behalf of advertisers, but the company wanted to blow its own horn for a change. Its cable viewers were loyal but traffic to its newly designed Web site wasn't making the grade. So Ruder Finn cooked up the idea for a pancake breakfast that would feed New York City college students courtesy of College Broadcast.
Given a short deadline of one month and a tight budget of $50,000, Ruder Finn was handed the challenge of creating an event that would raise immediate awareness of College Broadcast and position the company as one "created for students, by students." When the pancake mix settled, the agency had conjured up a memorable, nationally televised event with flying flapjacks and hundreds of hungry students serving as the backdrop.
- Generate immediate and widespread awareness of College Broadcast
- Drive traffic to the College Broadcast Web site (www.cb.com)
- Create an event that will reflect the fun, enterprising spirit of College Broadcast
Ruder Finn knew it would take precise planning in order to execute such a large-scale event in a short amount of time, especially working within a thrifty budget. The agency's recipe for success was in its creative thinking. Ruder Finn established partnerships with General Mills, The Cheyenne Kiwanis Club and Bering Cement Truck Company to keep costs at a minimum; to guarantee a large turn out, Ruder Finn secured a listing in Time Out New York and Seventeen Magazine and hyped the event on local campuses. To add a feel-good element to the breakfast, Ruder Finn recommended to College Broadcast that it award one student a $10,000 scholarship -- chances of winning increased with each pancake eaten, giving students more incentive to chow down. The suggestion was readily endorsed. Following is a summary of pre-event planning:
Securing the Venue
Partnered with CBS to host and televise the Pancake Breakfast; this partnership was important because any other location would require a permit and not guarantee television coverage.
Worked with CBS producers to select a date and create the right "look and feel."
Worked with CBS event staff on safety precautions for serving the pancakes to the attendees, as well as providing on-site security for crowd control and to monitor all equipment.
Flipping the Flapjacks
Secured a partnership on behalf of College Broadcast with General Mills to provide 600 pounds of packages of Betty Crocker pancake mix and 50 chef hats for the event staff.
Arranged for the Cheyenne Kiwanis Club to fly from Cheyenne, Wyoming to New York City to cook and serve pancakes on location.
Ordered juice, bottled water, syrup, plastic utensils and napkins
Reached an agreement with Bering Cement Truck Company in Virginia, to lend Ruder Finn a new cement truck to mix the pancake batter and act as a prop during the event.
Worked with Jazz Communications, Bering Truck Company’s advertising firm, to create a College Broadcast logo and apply decals on the cement truck.
Drawing a Crowd
Created pre-event hype on local campuses by distributing frisbees and fliers. Ruder Finn also deliverered pizza pies to local fraternities and sororities complements of College Broadcast. This tactic quickly created a buzz as news of the event spread by word-of-mouth among students.
Secured listings in local newspapers and magazines to complement our grass roots efforts.
Created and mailed event invitations consisting of a spatula and recipe card listing the “ingredients of a successful dot-com” to the media and others.
Day of event
Only a cool event, complete with memorable visuals, would appeal to College Broadcast's young, hip audience and capture attention. The ingredients were in place for a hearty pancake breakfast but with the event being attended by hundreds of college students and broadcast live on national television, Ruder Finn took a hands-on approach to managing the event too. Sporting College Broadcast aprons and chef hats, members of the Ruder Finn team stood behind the griddles with the Cheyenne Kiwanis Club to cook and serve pancakes. Additional event staff registered students for the scholarship contest and helped direct the CBS camera crew and Associated Press photographer to the best shots. Other logistics included:
- Setting up the griddles and serving area (bottled water, juice, napkins, plates)
- Assigning College Broadcast and Ruder Finn staff responsibilities for working the event
- Posting College Broadcast signs and fliers in the surrounding area
- Setting up a registration area for students to sign in and qualify for the scholarship contest
- Greeting students as they arrived and registered them for the scholarship contest
- Distributing College Broadcast T-shirts and aprons to assure visibility of company name/logo
- Preparing the CEO for an on-camera interview
- Monitoring the CBS camera crew and AP photographer
- Closing down the event – cleaning the event area, packing excess promotional items, etc.
To the client's delight, the Pancake Breakfast was cooked up and served in 30 days and came in under budget ($47,000). Approximately three million viewers tuned in to watch the “College Broadcast Pancake Breakfast” on the CBS Early Show, a true example of getting one’s "bang for the buck." Bryant Gumbel interviewed Chet Lyons, College Broadcast’s CEO, as hundreds of college students devoured the free food. The event culminated when on-air weather reporter Mark McEwen granted a $10,000 scholarship to one lucky student.
News segments ran nationwide on other television stations, including WWORTV, New York and many Fox News affiliates. The FOX affiliates included: WHBQ-TV, Memphis; WCCB-TV, Charlotte; WXIX-TV, Cincinnati; WTXF-TV, Philadelphia; WSVN-TV, Miami; WXIN-TV, Indianapolis, KVVU-TV, Las Vegas; KOKH-TV, Oklahoma City; FNC-TV, New York. As a result of all the publicity, traffic on the College Broadcast Web site surged 500%. Additional print coverage ran in Business Week Online, PR Week and PR Intelligence. Newspapers around the country picked up the photograph of the scholarship winner holding a "larger than life" check above his head.