National Student Ad Competition

A capstone delivering invaluable experience


The National Student Ad Competition (NSAC) allows senior strategic communication students the chance to work on a national client in their capstone course. Each year students from colleges and universities all across the country compete in this national competition, which is sponsored by the American Advertising Federation (AAF). As part of the competition, students gain valuable hands-on experience working on a campaign for a prominent national brand. In recent years, campaigns have been developed for Ocean Spray, Nissan and Pizza Hut.

As part of Mizzou’s NSAC team, students spend the first part of the fall semester conducting secondary and primary research, and then analyzing the findings. Using the insights gleaned through the research phase, the team then moves into campaign development, identifying a strategy, a target and a big idea for the campaign. Creative work begins at the start of the spring semester as students come up with and execute creative tactics to achieve objectives. Developing a media plan, outlining a campaign budget and preparing a formal oral presentation also are part of the process.

The final campaign is presented to the client in two phases. A formal plan book outlining all aspects of the campaign is submitted for judging in March. In April, students travel to the AAF District 9 competition to pitch their campaign to the client and other industry judges. The winner of the District 9 competition earns the right to compete in the semi-finals, with the ultimate goal of competing in the national finals. Win or lose, feedback is provided by judges for both the campaign plan book and pitch presentation, ensuring students walk away with a great learning experience.

The NSAC team welcomes any Mizzou senior strategic communication student who has an interest in experiencing the work of developing a comprehensive advertising and communication campaign for a national client. Seniors can apply to the capstone during the fall of their senior year. Throughout the research phase in the fall, students across grade levels are encouraged to participate in order to better understand the campaign research process. Graduate students may not participate per competition rules.

Developing a comprehensive strategic campaign requires students interested in every facet of development — researchers, account executives, copywriters, designers, creative directors, media planners, social media strategists, public relations specialists, video specialists. There is work to be done in every area of strategic communication.

The time commitment required for NSAC varies, depending on positions and involvement levels. Students will be expected to dedicate a significant amount of time for NSAC as they would any other capstone. The timing of the involvement also varies among positions. Team members working on the research and strategy portion of the campaign will be busiest in the fall semester. Team members focused on the creative portion of the campaign will be busiest in the spring semester. Regular weekly meetings, class time and work group sessions can be expected throughout the eight-month campaign process. Official membership in AAF Mizzou is highly suggested and for some team positions is required according to competition rules.