Students win at Canada’s Next Top Ad Executive competition with experiential learning edge

York Professor with her students

Experiential Education is paving the way for School of Administrative Studies (SAS) student success, not just in the classroom, but also with inter-institution collaborative initiatives, careers and external competitions.

The first competition of the year was Canada’s Next Top Ad Executive (CNTAE), arguably the country’s most influential competitive experiential program of its kind. Now in its 12th year, the theme for this year’s finals and awards, held on March 26 at The Omni King Edward Hotel, was “Empowering Evolution” through collaborative experiential learning.

Third place was won by Selina Cozzupoli and Tiana Noce, York University students who are not specializing in advertising, but are enrolled in SAS Marketing programs, including an experiential education class that gave them focused, preliminary experience and preparation.

Third place was won by Tiana Noce and Selina Cozzupoli, York University students who are not specializing in advertising, but are enrolled in SAS Marketing programs, including an experiential education class that gave them focused, preliminary experience and preparation.

“My SAS colleagues and I heartily congratulate Selina and Tiana on placing a strong third in this very challenging competition, which included entries from both undergraduate and graduate students of leading schools of business across Canada,” says Professor Adriano Solis, director of SAS.

Initially, Cozzupoli and Noce collaborated as a team and placed in the Top 25 of 142 elevator-pitch submissions from 25 schools across Canada. Next, after submitting a detailed marketing plan, they graduated to the Top 10. In the final round, they competed against nine other teams to present their plan in front of a 22-member jury.

“Participating was a challenging but awesome experience. It helped me stretch and expand my skills. Working with Selina was wonderful: we balanced each other well and made sure to laugh through it all,” says Noce, who is completing a SAS marketing certificate while majoring in communications studies.

“We are marketing minors and being pitted against MBA students may have seemed daunting, but only at first. I would honestly credit a lot of our success in the competition to our experiential live-client marketing course. We presented week after week to clients, addressing their real-world business problems. I feel the competitive nature of this course, and the different marketing challenges, helped me grow substantially as a marketer and take on the Top Ad Exec challenge head-on,” adds Noce.

Cozzupoli who is majoring in film and minoring in marketing, echoes her partner’s sentiments.

“I did not even know about the Top Ad Exec competition before Professor Pallavi Sodhi introduced us to the competition and encouraged us to participate,” she says. “The timing was grueling. Tiana and I had just enrolled into the live-client marketing course too, which had a crazy pace. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would present in front of clients week after week… and actually get comfortable at it. But that functioned as our rehearsal before our final performance in front of a 22-member jury at the competition. I still pinch myself that we won. My Top Ad Exec experience was definitely one for the record books.”

Sodhi teaches multiple marketing courses in the School of Administrative Studies.

“The Top Ad Exec competition, built on a framework of ‘un-classroom,’ truly empowers students to think differently and outside the confines of the traditional classroom,” says Sodhi, who is an avid supporter of experiential learning. “The competition bridges the gap between the marketing industry and universities, and opens the door to new kinds of collaboration between students, schools and the industry. I strongly believe in this kind of experiential learning and try to incorporate it into the courses I teach.

Professor Pallavi Sodhi (centre) with Selina Cozzupoli and Tiana Noce

“I was especially thrilled with the encouragement I received from SAS, New College and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies to launch the innovative Live-Client Learning Marketing experiential learning course in January 2018,” she adds. “As a teacher, nothing thrills me more than unbridled eagerness in students to learn. Tiana and Selina have been two such dedicated, eager learners. They dared to think differently and it was a marvel to see them grow as creative marketers during the course. I was confident they would win in the competition.”

An additional example of award-winning collaboration comes from students Harleen Singh and Suraj Parwani.

“I was given an amazing opportunity to serve as the York U Campus Account Manager (CAM) for Top Ad Exec alongside Suraj, my partner in crime,” says Singh. “Our role as CAMs was to encourage students to take part in season 12 of Canada’s largest marketing and advertising case competition. Having taken part in the competition in the past myself, I knew how enriching this competition really was and I wanted more York students to get involved. Serving as a CAM gave me the platform to do so. Through social media activations, in-class presentations, information booths and sessions, as well as video interviews and support from the New Marketing Student Association, we helped increase submissions by more than 35 per cent. It was a long but fulfilling journey, and I’m grateful that Suraj and I were named Top CAMs, placing second overall among all 46 CAMs from across Canada.”

Awards aren’t the only way to win with experiential learning. Both Singh and Parwani were also hired for career-accelerating internships by the two key sponsors of the CNTAE competition.

“Collaborating as a CAM gave us the opportunity to apply to internships that were only open to competition participants,” says Parwani. “I have been given the amazing opportunity to be the Channel Partner Development Intern with Canada Post.”

And as the only student selected for the Canadian Tire internship, Singh says, “I have crossed over a monumental bridge this year and have been welcomed by Canadian Tire Corporation. Had it not been for our involvement as CAMs, or our knowledge about the competition, and our professor’s constant support and confidence in us and this program, I, for one, would not have been able to even find this bridge. So, thank you Professor Sodhi, CNTAE, and Canadian Tire. I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter of my career this summer as Canadian Tire’s Marketing Specialist Intern.”

SAS students Tiana Noce, Suraj Parwani, Selina Cozzupoli and Harleen Singh

Sodhi is hopeful that the successes resulting from experiential learning will increase exponentially for students.

“Companies look for plug-and-play talent, and students will get to be exactly that when they partake in experiential learning opportunities where they can gain real-world experience and seamlessly enter the workforce,” Sodhi says. “Thanks to New College for helping make the students’ participation in the competition possible. And may such bridges of experiential learning — whether Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec or the Live-Client Learning Marketing course — continue to raise the bar of collaboration for better learning outcomes through industry engagement.”