Santa Rosa advertising students win $25K campaign to help Sonoma County nonprofit

A student team from Santa Rosa Junior Colllege created this advertisement as part of a winning campaign for nonprofit Community Child Care Council of Sonoma County (4Cs) in the Big Ad Challenge in December 2017. (SANTA ROSA JUNIOR COLLEGE)



Five international students enrolled in a Santa Rosa Junior College advertising class took top honors in the 2017 winner-take-all $25,000 Big Ad Challenge with a unique campaign designed to support and promote the Community Child Care Council (4Cs) of Sonoma County.

SRJC has won this competition three years in a row beating 16 teams with 69 marketing, advertising and graphic design students from SRJC, Sonoma State University and Dominican University.

“We salute these five students — all women and each from a different country — and applaud their outstanding achievement,” said SRJC Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Assistant Superintendent Mary Kay Rudolph, who together with Josh Adams, dean of business and professional studies in the Business Department, congratulated the winning team.

Sponsored by the North Bay Business Journal and Wells Fargo, the goal of the Big Ad Challenge is for student teams (working with business/organization owners and managers, as well as college instructors) to get real-world experience by evaluating the market opportunity for a for-profit or nonprofit organization. The teams develop were to effective advertising and marketing solutions and creating a media plan to attract the business audience of the North Bay Business Journal.

Each team presented its proposal Dec. 6 at the SOMO Village Events Center in Rohnert Park to a panel of judges from banking, marketing and publishing.

Campaign proposals were ranked on a scale from 1 to 10 in seven categories. Judges were looking for how prominent and consistent the client’s branding was portrayed, if the ads were visually interesting, how effectively each campaign guided the reader through the ad, how well the campaign met the client’s business goals, along with their assessment of each team’s overall campaign and the entire presentation.

The winning campaign focused on the tagline “Today’s Kids as Tomorrow’s Leaders” and featured three young children dressed as a businessperson, CEO and firefighter with the statement “quality preschool education is one of the vital elements of success.”

This was followed by an appeal to support the 4Cs dreams by donating to this nonprofit that built 12 preschools throughout Sonoma County providing reliable, affordable and scalable community education while also serving as a resource and referral center for children in Sonoma County.

Calling themselves “Team United Nations,” the winners included Mariola O-Young from Poland; Toan Dinh, Vietnam; Sara Manjencic, Australia; Titi Wisanee, Thailand; and Yuka Peng, Taiwan.

SRJC advertising instructor Kelly Windsor said her students did their homework and carefully identified the demographic segment of the population most likely to be receptive to these ads. From the outset she believed the proposed target audience of local business leaders was not necessarily a group the students could easily interact with.

“To better visualize those in the target market, I showed students photos of business leaders I know, (Mike Sullivan with Wells Fargo and Laura Richards, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker) and coached students to choose ideas that would strike a responsive chord among those in this age group.”

According to Mariola O-Young, “These pictures created a mental image for us so we could begin to develop an ad theme that would make an emotional impact on newspaper readers with similar backgrounds, as well as impress the judges.”

Windsor said 70 percent of North Bay Business Journal readers are small business owners and many are couples in their 30s and 40s. For example, Anna and Aaron Brown are local brewery owners with two children. Aaron is also a volunteer fireman on weekends, and Anna has a seat on a local nonprofit board.

“Business leaders hire many employees with young kids at home and understand the importance of a safe environment for employees’ children and can relate to how important it is to support 4Cs,” Windsor said.

O-Young served as the meeting organizer and made sure everyone stayed focused and remained on track in order to achieve team objectives.

“We were inspired by content on the 4Cs website and information gleaned from fact-finding interviews. Everyone collaborated in creating compelling copy points to describe the 4Cs,” she said.

To conduct in-depth client research, the team met with 4Cs Community Relations Manager Tiffani Montgomery, and Executive Director Melanie Dodson, to better understand 4Cs unique differentiation. They toured three preschool sites, spoke to teachers and discovered several selling propositions and a variety of services, including disaster preparedness courses, nutrition education and licensing for daycare providers — things that set this organization apart.

“I knew they could win. It was exciting to work with these students,” Montgomery said. “They listened carefully as we described our organization, mission and vision as well as we talked about ways to engage the Business Journal community. They hit the nail on the head.”

The United Nations Team came together three times a week, twice in class and once in the library to craft taglines for the campaign, while continuing to assess and explore alternative concepts.

“After much discussion, I recommended that they zero-in on a Successful Sonoma County theme,” Windsor said. “They agreed to go with two related, parallel themes — ‘Stable Family = Stable Workforce,’ and ‘Successful Business = Successful Sonoma.’

They came to the conclusion that that investing in children in Sonoma County is the same as investing in the future success of the world, since easy access to high quality preschool and childcare education contributes to the stability of the family and a productive economy. The entire process was a joint effort.

Manjencic was instrumental in describing the characteristics of the average newspaper reader and invented a fictitious person they named “Mark Johnson” to serve as a model for the team to study. She also edited and refined the written proposal and Power Point presentation.

Yuka Peng created the first tag line, “Today’s Kid, Tomorrow’s Hero” for the ad showing a very young fireman in uniform. The theme resonated with her classmates. She polished ideas submitted by others, such as two additional taglines from Titi and others with photos showing two kids smartly dressed as a woman CEO and a company manager reading the Business Journal, future community leaders.

Wisanee developed the closing appeal for donations — “Small Amount for a Big Project.” Both Yuka and Titi visited SRJC’s preschool facility and received permission from the instructor and releases from parents to photograph children for the ads and refined artwork using Photo Shop.

Dinh’s handled money matters and the allocation of funds for the final ad budget. She also made a point of introducing herself to each judge before the presentation. She advised teammates to maintain eye contact with them as well as smile when speaking.

“While the Big Ad Campaign offered free newspaper ads and online digital ad banners, we also believe that to reach as many people as possible, a variety of media social media (Facebook and YouTube) could also be added to the mix down the road.”

The $25,000 sponsored advertising award will go to promote 4Cs operations and services using four half-page ads in the Business Journal, a half-page ad in the Book of Lists, along with a six-month digital online flight featuring banner ads. A campaign goal is to stimulate donations from the public that will help to establish creative classes at 4Cs.

The need to support preschool education is greater than ever following the wildfires. In a 4Cs October press release describing the impact of the wildfires on the early care and education/child care community, the announcement said 15 licensed childcare facilities burned to the ground (including two afterschool programs, two preschools, and 11 licensed family childcare homes) displacing 444 children in Sonoma County ( While no 4Cs locations were affected, the firestorm increased the need for contributions to help restore and rebuild these facilities.

“I have to salute these students. I asked them to rework their ideas several times, and each time they came back with something better. Their hard work paid off in a wonderful campaign. I think it is as good as anything an organization could get from an ad agency,” Windsor said.

Wells Fargo Northern California Region Bank President Thomas Sands said the competition fits with the institution’s mission.

“Wells Fargo is proud to be the presenting sponsor of the Big Ad Challenge because supporting students and working with small businesses is one of the most important things we do at Wells Fargo,” Sands said. “When small businesses succeed, they create jobs and help build a more prosperous community. That is why we launched Wells Fargo Works for Small Business at to provide resources, guidance and services to help small businesses take the next step towards their goals.”