Communication and community

Senior, Collin O'Brien, Senior, Janessa Gomez, and Alumni leader, Khien Nguyen redesign the website for the Florida Grand Opera as part of the Comm Week PhilADthropy Event.

If one took a stroll through the UM School of Communication Courtyard in the past month, a giant hanging countdown was a sigh that couldn’t be missed.

This countdown was just one way in which the School of Communication and its organizations the Ad Group and PRADUM, Public Relations and Advertising University of Miami, anticipated their first annual PhilADthropy. The event began last Friday at the end of Communication Week 2010, an annual week-long series of events by the School of Communication that hosts several speakers in the communication field, screenings and special demonstrations and presentations.

Starting at 11 a.m. Friday morning, PhilADthropy combined community service and advertising in a period of 25 consecutive hours, a number chosen in celebration of the School of Communication’s 25th anniversary.

“It’s not a new concept as far as the 24-hour ad blitz, but I thought it would be something really cool to bring to UM [because] I know that it’s something that hasn’t been done before,” said advertising professor Meryl Blau, who was actually the first to mention the idea to the Ad Group for which she is the faculty advisor.

With over 65 student volunteers signed up, the project allowed students, mostly from the advertising department, to join together to develop creative advertising and design concepts for 12 possible non-profit organizations. Based on their skills, student volunteers were divided into teams that were head by a School of Communication faculty member or an alumnus.

The non-profit organizations ranged in causes from the homeless to education, from saving endangered species to foster care. At the end of the 25 hours, the students gave a presentation to their non-profit clients and received feedback; the organizations were not required to use the students’ work so no one loses anything, Blau said.

“[Our clients] were so impressed and thankful that, as students, we were able to pull this whole thing together,” said junior Jackie Churgin, the president of the Ad Group. “Everyone got to walk away with something, whether it was a new Web site, a logo, print ads, new friends or things to add to our portfolios.”

Blau hopes to continue the effort for years to come and, after receiving much praise from the participating organizations following the event, it may be extremely feasible.

“We received an e-mail from one of the clients congratulating us on the success and professionalism of the students but also on the quality work that they received,” she said. “The clients were very honored they were to be a part of this.”

Working under an extreme deadline and within an environment very much like the real world of advertising, PhilADthropy was a unique way for students to give back to the organizations that spend every day helping other people, said senior Dayna Bieber, the creative director for PRADUM which was the organization behind all marketing materials for the event.

With a kick-off event featuring Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a prestigious advertising agency, and meals and snacks throughout the two days sponsored by Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, Sergio’s Café and 5-Hour Energy drink, PhilADthropy set out to be a major opportunity for anyone interested in advertising.

“I hope [the volunteers] took away a sense of pride because they helped the community and a sense of celebration because the School of Communication has come such a long way in 25 years,” Churgin said. “[I hope] that they can say ‘look what I’ve done in 25 hours’ because it was really the classroom coming to life.”

Alexa Lopez can be contacted at