Northern Arizona University students in Richard Lei’s advertising 411 class are working to create advertising plans for the Kia Soul. Teams of four are competing for the best overall advertising plan to increase the Soul’s brand awareness.

The teams are part of two capstone classes, designed as a culminating educational experience before graduation. Along with attempting to win the top-project award, the projects offer a valuable takeaway.

“We do our best in getting brands with national visibility, so when students leave NAU, they have a client book with finalized copies of their work that they can take to a job interview,” Lei said. Each semester, agencies provide Lei and his students with an advertising challenge or issue along with a range of data on the product.

The creative strategies include television and radio scripts, billboards and use of new media platforms to increase brand awareness.

This semester, Lei’s class is working with the agency David and Goliath and advertising director Mike O’Malley, an NAU alumnus who graduated in 1998. O’Malley holds a senior position on the Kia Soul’s advertising account.

In the capstone classes, Lei forms teams based on individual student strengths, from research, media and account planning to the use of technology.

Professor Richard Lei looks on as students put finishing touches on their advertising plans for the Kia Soul.

Professor Richard Lei looks on as students put finishing touches on their advertising plans for the Kia Soul.

Kendall Brown, who graduates in May, said working on the capstone project taught her the real life experience of working with a team.  “In order to survive in the media world and work on a team, you need to work together and realize you won’t always get your own way,” Brown said.

As part of the market research on the Kia Soul, students used the School of Communication’s focus group room with a one-way mirror offering discreet observation of the focus group interviewees.

“Our team learned a lot from our focus group about what people look for when buying a car and what we heard helped us narrow down our message,” said Brown, whose team is incorporating UFOs and technology to advance Kia’s marketing message.

The finished products, which will be presented as part of the final project, are at a professional level, said Lei. “The type of work students generate is typical of a medium-size agency in a medium-sized market.”