"In short, the winner has been selected by your judging panel based on clarity of your comm platform, carrying it through all the way in all that you proposed and tying all things together neatly to meet hard and soft objectives. That said, the winner the panel has selected is....UpperCase Media. We will need to schedule a time for you to come by and pick up your prize packages."
I'm still rubbing my eyes to make sure I'm reading it right, it just seems too good to be true! It's not that I didn't think we had a chance, but I was so scared to get my hopes up for fear of being disappointed. We put so much into it and we cared about it so much that I didn't even want to think about the possibility of it being shot down. I can honestly say that I have never cared about a project as much as I did this one (although the final project in 345 is a close second).
The funny thing is, I had completely forgotten about the prize packages until Professor Dobias mentioned them in her email. Winning is such a great prize by itself, anything more than that makes me feel spoiled! Not that I won't appreciate my prize, but just knowing that our plan was chosen truly is the greatest reward in and of itself, and I think my entire group would agree with me on that. The validation of knowing that we delivered what the judges were looking for is just such a great feeling I can't even begin to explain it. All of the late (and sleepless) nights were more than worth it for this.
When I look back at how far we've come, it really is incredible. It's hard to believe that just a couple months ago Danny was explaining the project to us for the very first time. We were all so freaked out and clueless at that point. I remember feverishly trying to write down every single word that Danny said because I was so lost and I was just hoping if I had his words down on paper I'd be able to piece them together later.
And then we had our first group meeting that week. We didn't really know where to begin, so we started by compiling all of our notes about the project and trying to figure it out from there. The first week we were all pretty lost, but the second week we got our stride. That's when the research really started kicking in, and we figured out what we needed to be doing. I think that's one of the main reasons why we did so well—we did our research. Before we even started thinking about the plan, we devoted a huge amount of time and energy just to researching AFI and its competitors. We compiled pages upon pages of notes in our Google doc, and our vault of information never stopped growing. If anything, we knew our client inside and out. And that was the strong foundation we needed in order to build a great plan.
Looking back at Projects 1 and 2, I now realize that rushing through this cruicial step in the process was the biggest mistake we made that prevented us from finding big ideas. We were always so eager to dive right in and start working that we skimped on the research aspect. In the past, we figured we could do overview research to start, and then continue to research while we worked. This strategy seemed more efficient at the time, but now I see just how wrong we were. Strong initial research is absolutely vital for success. Throughout the course of working on the final project, I found myself referring back to the information we gathered over and over, which made me realize just how much I needed it. Plus, our strongest ideas came from insights that we would have never found if we hadn't studied our client so thoroughly.
The research was the soil that grounded and nourished our entire plan. That was the first big ingredient to our success. But the second main ingredient is less tangible—our determination. From the very first day we met as a group, we all knew we wanted to have the best project more than anything, and we were willing to do whatever it took to get there. We painstakingly reviewed each others work over and over to make sure everything was perfect. We weren't quick to accept an idea just because we were tired and wanted to go home. It couldn't just be good. It had to be the one. And we held out until we were certain that all of our ideas were golden.
This group was special because no one was willing to settle. That's one of the most valuable lessons I learned during this project: if an idea isn't working, you have to move on, even if you're attached to it. There were instances when we threw out ideas that we had been working on for a while, because we realized it just wasn't the right one. Sometimes this was really frustrating for me, especially when it was something I was working on, but now I'm glad I had that experience.
The most educational (and painful) of these instances for me was when the team decided to toss an idea for creative that I'd been working on for several days. The idea had been to create state-tailored ads based on the myths and folk stories that are native to each state that AFI was expanding to. We had decided to go through with it, so I started working on the creative. It wasn't until I was almost completely finished with the ads that the group decided the idea wasn't strong enough.
They were right, and deep down I knew it, but I felt so invested in those ads. It's true – when you work on something for a long time, a part of you goes into it and you start to get attached. When my group decided we needed to scrap the idea, I felt pretty upset about it. It felt like such a waste to let go of the ads that I'd worked so hard on. But now, I'm so glad they were honest with me, because if we hadn't thrown out that idea we never would have dug up the really big ideas we ultimately came up with. That was a hard lesson for me, but I'm glad I experienced it. If the current plan isn't working, you have to admit it and just let go, and be confident that something better will take it's place.
This project has just taught me so much about what makes a great team and what makes a great media plan. Everyone in our group had a clear role and sense of direction, and everyone worked according to their strengths. After spending so much time working together, we all got really comfortable around one another and we were able to give each other honest feedback without sugarcoating. Occasionally, we got a little too comfortable around one another, like the time we pulled an all-nighter in the PCL while working on part 1 of the book. After spending hours together with no sleep, we started to get short with one another, but it turned out to be worth all the crankiness when we saw how great our finished product turned out. And on top of that, even though we were irritated and sleepy, we all realized at the end how lucky we were to be in a group with four other people who cared enough about the project as much as each of us did. It's not often that you end up in a group where each member is willing to sacrifice a full night's sleep for success. But that's just where we stood. We all knew that every one of us wanted the project to be perfect, and that we'd stop at nothing to get there.
I just wish I could go back to 345 equipped with the knowledge and experience I have now...but at least I know I can do it right from now on. I've learned so much in TexasMedia this semester, and I can't wait to take these skills and apply them to whatever challenges are waiting for us next semester.