real-world project

Business Students Bring New Ideas to Campaign for New London Hospital

The pressure was on as 19 Business Administration students, dressed in business attire, filed into a crowded conference room at New London Hospital on Nov. 14th to present their advertising campaign. An expectant group of hospital and college officials, including hospital President and CEO Bruce King, Colby-Sawyer President Tom Galligan, and Bill Helm—chairman of the hospital's Board of Trustees and a college trustee—awaited them.

Just a few weeks earlier, Colby-Sawyer Adjunct Professor Ferries had handed these students in their first advertising class a daunting real-world assignment: Create an advertising campaign to inform local residents and businesses about the hospital's $21 million expansion, and galvanize their support for the project and the new services it would provide.

Professor Ferries introduced the students as a “motivated and talented group” and a good example of the kind of students who emerge from Colby-Sawyer. “They were only in class for four weeks when I dropped this project in their laps, and this is serious stuff,” he said. “The nice thing is that this is a real project with a real client and a real deadline.”

Molly Mullen, the lead presenter, discussed the challenge before them and the desired result. “Our challenge was to develop a campaign that makes the community knowledgeable and interested in the hospital expansion as well as willing to support it financially,” she said. “We want to galvanize the community into becoming connected to the hospital, its capital fund drive and its future.”

She identified the key benefits of the hospital's current renovation, which encompass an expanded and unified campus that offers private inpatient rooms, on-site rehabilitation, a pediatric practice on campus, renovated child care space and a pain management clinic, as well as a chapel, more physicians' offices and easy access to MRI testing. The hospital will also gain a new more traditional and welcoming look, along with a central entrance and separate emergency entrance.

To create effective advertising campaigns, the students focused on the hospital's target markets, which Mullen identified as senior citizens, families with young children, and area businesses. “We want every group in the community, every school, every organization and business…to realize that the expanded hospital will bring vital benefits to them for years to come,” she said.

A Team Approach to the Creative Process

The students organized into four teams—Trevor's Travelers, Adrian's Barbarians, Michelle's Cells, Kate's Out-Takes—each of which took creative approaches to different aspects of the project.

Trevor's Travelers, led by Trevor Davis, looked each target audience to discern its needs and desires, and infused its advertising messages with emotional appeals about the hospital's efforts to address personal needs. On the screen behind him, Davis pointed to his team's ad in which “PAIN' stood out in large bold type, followed by the subhead: “Don't suffer another day in pain,” and accompanied by images of senior citizens receiving individualized care in the new pain management clinic planned for the expanded hospital.

“New London's population is getting older, and people have more aches and pains, so the hospital needed a pain management clinic,” Davis explained. “What we're looking to do is grab attention… to say, 'We understand your pain and are working toward a solution…and we would like you to understand our need for support to bring this project to completion.'”

Adrian's Barbarians, led by Adrian Azodi, focused on clear and concise imagery and messaging, which would be instantly recognizable and build a strong visual identity for the hospital. Several ads carried the headline, "Your Needs. Our Response," each featuring a a specific new benefit of the expansion created in response to the community's emerging medical care needs. Additionally, their slogan “Brick by Brick: Be a Cornerstone of your Community” seeks to garner financial support among businesses for building new facilities.

One ad by Michelle's Cells, presented by Michelle Cugini '09, depicts the hospital as “The Heartbeat of our Community,” with an illustration of a large stethoscope whose neck gauges the capital campaign fund's progress. The ad calls on residents to “Give Life to New London Hospital,” and provides a form to request information about ways to donate to the project. The team also created a mockup of a parents' newsletter which could be sent out to families through their children's schools and a direct marketing piece for businesses that emphasizes the hospital's tremendous impact on the community and appeals to business's spirit of civic responsibility.

“The best way to dramatize the benefits of the hospital expansion is to show the problem and the solution together,” said Kate Managan '08, leading Kate's Out-Takes, in the final team's presentation. The screen behind her shows an ad with two images, one of a typical double occupancy hospital room, and another of more homey images of a new private room with a pull-out couch to accommodate family overnight visitors.

In closing, Professor Ferries told the audience that the students' had completed their work in just 10 days, while carrying a full course load and one or more jobs on the side. “I'm incredibly proud of them,” he concluded.

Hospital and college Trustee Bill Helm was among the first to express great enthusiasm for the students' poise and creativity, describing their work as an excellent example of how the college integrates professional experiences with a liberal arts education. “As a trustee of the college I'm incredibly impressed with your ideas,” he told the students. “You really captured so much of what the hospital hopes to convey about the benefits of the expansion.”

A Natural Partnership

For the hospital's Director of Community Relations Susan Bryant, working with Colby-Sawyer students was fun and exciting. “Their quick grasp of the project and the initial questions they asked were impressive,” she said. “Seeing the four teams' presentations I was immediately struck by the amount of creativity and work that went into the ideas they shared.”

The project is an example of how well the college and the hospital work together, a relationship which extends to student internships, Community Capstone projects in nursing, and shared medical staff, according to President Galligan. “The project provided an incredibly positive practical and professional experience for our students in coming up with and presenting their proposed ad campaigns,” he said. “They presented creatively, clearly, intelligently and with enthusiasm, combining oral and written communication, visual presentations, business acumen and the ability to perceive the client's perspective."

Hospital CEO Bruce King stressed that the college and hospital make natural partners. “The creative presentations made by this advertising class emphasize one of the many ways our two organizations can benefit from each other's resources,” he said. “I appreciate the time and effort that went into this project, and I look forward to more collaboration in the future.”

As a New London resident involved in leadership roles at both institutions, Bill Helm understands their larger significance for the community's well-being. He and his wife Christina moved to New London in 2001, and like many new residents, the presence of the college and the hospital, as well as the region's recreational opportunities, are largely what drew them here as retirees. As a former administrator, he's been actively engaged in the hospital's efforts to attract new leadership and modernize and expand its medical services in the region.

“I'm very proud to be involved with both institutions,” he said. “We felt the students did a superb job of bringing some very creative ideas to the expansion project. Anytime you bring in a fresh look at what you're doing, it's very positive. The leadership of the college and the hospital has been working together on establishing even more cooperative kinds of relationships, and the students' work is a perfect match between the two.”

Thrown into Real Life

Reflecting on the project, Kate Managan said the work was completely different from any college assignment that she'd ever worked on. “It brought us into the real world. I felt that it was very important because in some classes, students wonder if they will ever use the concepts [they learn in the classroom] in real life, and we were thrown into real life,” she said. “It taught me a lot more than just the concept of advertising.”

For Adrian Azodi, the project was unique because it took the students out of the classroom and engaged them as professionals. “The most challenging parts of this project were to coordinate schedules among team members and develop a finished product,” he said. “It was easy to come up with tons of ideas, but the implementation and layout were much more difficult.”

Though the complexity of the subject matter and the tight deadlines were big challenges for her team, Michelle Cugini felt the project was a great experience. “We had to act as an advertising agency would and come up with new innovative ideas that the hospital might have overlooked. It was rewarding in the sense that we were able to help the hospital with its campaign of 'Building Towards the Future,' while at the same time gaining hands-on experience.”

As New London Hospital moves forward with its expansion and efforts to engage the community, these business students hope their creative ideas, hatched on the Colby-Sawyer campus, will help the hospital to reach its goals.