Wacky GBN Project Becomes Winning Campaign

Three GBN students earned top honors in two categories at the International DECA competition for their Wacky Mac & Cheese Advertising Campaign.

When then juniors Andy Margolis, Jack Nelson and Andrew Farwell started working on a class project to build an advertising campaign for Wacky Mac & Cheese, the three had a very clear — albeit unusual — goal in mind.

They wanted their names on a street sign.

“The sign is a funny story. We began the project with the sole goal of getting the sign,” Farwell said. “So now seeing it up is extremely rewarding and almost surreal because it is a physical representation of a goal we created and accomplished through hard work and long hours.”

In May, Farwell, Margolis and Nelson earned top honors in two categories at the International DECA competition for their Wacky Mac & Cheese Advertising Campaign.

It was the second time in two years GBN had secured a first place win at the competition. The previous year, Charlie Serota earned first place in the Sports and Entertainment Marketing category.

The win earned him a special recognition in Northbrook – four street signs celebrating his win were installed by the Illinois Department of Transportation. And like Serota, the boys were proud when they, too, saw their street signs go up in July. 

“It’s very exciting,” Nelson said. “Throughout this process we had always joked about having a sign put up. To see it in reality is pretty fantastic.”

The Wacky Mac campaign first originated as a class project in Mindy Ingersoll’s marketing class.  In December, 10 groups of students pitched their proposals to executives from Strom, the makers of the cheesy treat, and Chicago-based media-buying agency Spacetime. Each group shared their research and recommended how Wacky Mac & Cheese should be advertised.

From there, the boys used the feedback they received from Spacetime, such as incorporating more data and statistics, and Ingersoll to make additional changes to their presentation before competing in DECA.

“We focused on high brand interaction to help build awareness and recognition for the product,” Nelson said.  “In addition to more traditional advertisements on television and in magazines, our campaign also called for unique ways to get people involved in the product such as a mobile ‘Wacky Wagon’ that handed out product samples and an app we created that allowed users to check daily for coupons and play product-themed games.”

Students competing in DECA took exams and participated in intensive role-playing business scenarios that were scored and judged during the competition.

Through their unique marketing techniques (one of which included a commercial they filmed starring Margolis’ young sister) and use of technology, Nelson said it helped them stand out amongst their competition.

Whether it was enough for them to earn first place, though, was questionable.

“We had absolutely no idea,” he said. “As the third and second place winners were announced, I leaned over to Andrew and mentioned that we were probably out of the running. To then hear our names was both incredibly surprising and somewhat surreal.” 

And it wasn’t just a street sign the group earned from the experience.

“Working on the project was an incredible experience,” Margolis said. “Being a part of DECA has certainly influenced my decision to major in business in college, and has greatly enhanced my knowledge of business operation, marketing, and economics.”

The International Career Development Conference was held April 28 - May 1 in Salt Lake City, UT. DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.

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