Helping People

UM advertising, marketing students assist local nonprofits during 25-hour marathon

From left: Soraya Nymova, Soany Nguyen, Max Pollack and Callie Dephillips during a presentation at PhilADthropy at the University of Miami School of Communication on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. For 25 hours, more than 100 UM students volunteer their time and talents to PhilADthropy, a marathon for creating advertising campaigns for local nonprofits.
From left: Soraya Nymova, Soany Nguyen, Max Pollack and Callie Dephillips during a presentation at PhilADthropy at the University of Miami School of Communication on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. For 25 hours, more than 100 UM students volunteer their time and talents to PhilADthropy, a marathon for creating advertising campaigns for local nonprofits. rkoltun@miamiherald.com

Third time is the charm for nonprofit organization Hope for Miami, which was rejected twice before by the University of Miami’s PhilADthropy event that helps nonprofit organizations receive high-quality advertising and marketing content from students who work diligently for 25 hours straight.

PhilADthropy helps organizations with limited financial resources to hire an advertising agency by providing similar quality in a win-win scenario. Taking place over the weekend, 12 nonprofits across South Florida and 120 University of Miami students are matched; the organizations get rebranded and receive plenty of advertising materials from the students, who in turn, get real-life working experience that replicates the environment of a high-pressure advertising industry.

In 25 hours, students will determine what their assigned organizations wants and produce creative designs, posters, websites and any other material that their clients want. To Yvonne Sawyer, chief operating officer of Hope for Miami, the students exceeded all conceivable expectations.

“I would have been happy to walk out of here with just a logo. The fact that I have a social media plan, merchandise ideas and graphics, it totally blows my mind,” Sawyer said. “This went above and beyond what I expected. It hit all my goals and then some, goals I didn’t even know I had.”

With over 100 applications to PhilADthropy, Meryl Blau, an advertising professor and founder of PhilADthropy, gave priority to Hope for Miami, which had already applied twice. She also oversees the organizations selected as clients.

“We are looking to find a variety of topics, not just one topic, helping out different types of issues and are in need of financial help,” Blau said. “We need to know the organization needs the help and they are not getting it elsewhere. It’s one night and they want to know that one night will really make a difference.”

Blau said the 25-hour marathon also served as a mock rite-of-passage to prepare them for the advertising world, saying that she also has done this event in unfit conditions.

“If they are going in this industry, you don’t know what you will be thrown into, what fires will be burning, pulling all-nighters is not out of the question, and it is pretty cultural for the industry,” Blau said. “I have done this on crutches, I’ve done this pregnant, and I have done this every year for eight years. Just go home and sleep. We can catch up on it.”

The long hours can be tiring for the students. To counter this, the event offers free and unlimited coffee and Red Bull. But even then, according to advertising professor Sarai Nuñez, the night can make students do strange things as she remembered one time a few years ago.

“Things can get really kooky and weird. I remember one time when one of the team leaders decided that their team needed to do yoga at 3 a.m. in the morning,” Nuñez said. “Students do get drained and they need energy in, so they were having a yoga session at the courtyard and I thought it was great.”

Also representative of the working industry are situations where external factors could throw everyone off. The group assigned to Big Blue & You experienced this when at 9 a.m., two hours from presenting their 25 hours of work, the building they were working in had a power outage, and all their computers shut down.

“We were having an internal mental breakdown, just stared at the screens in silent disbelief,” Avisha Gopalakrishna, a student designer assigned to work for Big Blue & You, said. “We were praying to gods we didn’t believe in.”

The power came back 15 minutes later and the group learned that their content was saved onto Google Docs. The incident served as a reminder to save often, another teaching moment.

The main thing Blau hoped that students learn is to work with people they have never met and to work toward a common goal as a team. From the content Sawyer received, she thought the event did a great job not just for her, but for the students, as well.

“There is no question this will help the UM students,” Sawyer said. “From what I understand these are students who have never worked before and they paired the groups up well to make a well-rounded team. And they did everything I wanted, and everything I didn’t know I want.”

The students’ 25-hour marathon ended with dark eye circles, smelling of stale coffee and cold sweat but with a smile of satisfaction.

“We helped these foundations and it feels good,” said Jessica Gales, a student working for SSJ Health Foundation. “But right now I think I need a shower.”

Nonprofit organizations

▪ ArtSouth

▪ Big Blue & You

▪ Hope for Miami + Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami

▪ iSmile

▪ Miami Veterinary Foundation

▪ MISSION UNITED

▪ Shake-A-Leg Miami

▪ SSJ Health Foundation

▪ The Toby Center for Family Transition

▪ Voices for Children of Broward County

▪ Women's Cancer Association of the University of Miami

▪ Women of Tomorrow

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