Six students from the Texas Creative Program were tasked with creating several new commercials for the Longhorn Network, which premiered on June 17.
Months of hard work paid off at 8 p.m. Sunday as The University of Texas advertising student’s “Watch What You Love” commercial marketing campaign aired on the Longhorn Network and ESPN.
A joint venture between UT and ESPN, the Longhorn Network reaches over four million homes nationwide. Executives for the year-old network approached the UT advertising department in January with a proposal for a four-commercial rebranding campaign, said Ryan Romero of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations.
“This project was the most rewarding experience I've had in college and maybe in my life,” campaign member Kate Griffiths said. “It was really stressful, especially with balancing other classes and there were lots of nights with no sleep, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.”
The team was a mix of students from the Texas Creative Program. An email was sent out to 12 of the sequence members, just hours before the final deadline for the class. Out of those 12, only six students were brought on for the project.
“Needless to say we all missed the final deadline and lining up that paperwork became such an arduous process,” graduate student and team member Cody Tidmore said. “Most of us had to sell some of our personal belongings to pay for the course, but we were happy to do it because we knew how great of an opportunity this was for us.”
The students brainstormed 100 rough drafts each and narrowed their ideas down to pitch for the first round. From the initial feedback, they strengthened the two campaigns that appeared most favored. In the end, the “Watch What You Love” campaign was chosen for the message of commonality of love for UT sports it provided, said team member Jennifer Bankston.
“This project was a crash-course on how ideas become reality in the advertising model,” group member Johnathan Wynn said. “It was a wonderful learning experience to take on a challenge our instructors can only prepare us for in a classroom.”
The first commercial of the series set the scene of a father finishing a bedtime story for his daughter. In the scene, he retells the UT 2006 Rose Bowl victory which brought the Horns a national championship. His daughter follows the story by asking for her dad to retell it. As the “Watch What You Love” message appears, he obliges.
The second commercial features a man working at his desk. Feeling homesick, he slides a picture of the tower over to cover up a building outside his window. This action makes it appear as if he is working in the heart of downtown Austin.
“We spent a lot of time as a team brainstorming initial ideas,” said Bankston. We pitched quite a few different campaigns. Some of them were funnier, others more serious in tone. We had a lot of late nights and canceled plans in the process of writing the initial scripts. We worked really well together as a team.”
Wynn said the students gained a lot of hands-on-experience throughout the many stages of the project. From deciding the campaign conception and pitching ideas, to choosing a director and making edits and graphic treatments, students worked closely with the Longhorn Network and their production house.
“Working on our campaign for LHN was a great experience,” said Wynn. “For most junior creatives starting out, it can take years to work your way up to TV. So, needless to say, creating a TV campaign is an unbelievable opportunity.”
The advertising students were also able to work closely with producer Bill Wine of GSD&M.
“For us in the creative sequence we learn a lot about campaigns and coming up with campaign ideas, but we don't have the opportunity to execute commercials,” said Griffiths. “With this project we all learned how to work successfully with a client. We learned how to pitch and how to write commercial scripts. We learned about budgeting, casting, shooting, and editing.”
Though the commercials will run on the Longhorn Network, Tidmore feels they will be different from what viewers are used to seeing. Tidmore said that majority of sports commercials are loud with a lot of color and movement. This setup is used to target the “rabid fan.” Instead of continuing with this marketing concept, the student team decided to develop a new type of sports commercial.
“Make sports commercials with no sports,” said Tidmore. “Find out who these rabid fans TRULY are. We came to the conclusion that a lot of them are everyday people with lavish fandom living inside them. So we started to think what are these everyday situations that the everyman fan would do day-by-day, and we injected it with that fandom.”
The new commercial concept is designed to get fans to listen. By changing the sport commercial stereotype, the advertising students hope to get into the hearts and minds of their viewers. On screen, they hope to conceptualize what it means to be an everyday, working world, Longhorn fan.
“We took out the loud, overbearing sounds like whistles, the crack of the ball off the bat, cheers, etc. and really focused on the usually unnoticed sounds, but when heard – are beautiful,” said Tidmore. “We feel that Texas fans will catch the break in noise and then they will simply listen. We spent countless hours crafting these situations to feel natural and conversational and I could not be more proud of where we landed.”
The first two commercials are available on the Longhorn Network’s Youtube account. Two more are set to be released in the coming weeks.
“[I learned most from the project to] never be afraid to shout out the dumbest thing that comes to mind e.g. barbecue face,” said Tidmore. “I realize you have no idea what that means, but just know it was beautiful. Long. Live. Barbecue face.”