IST, communications, business students partner for Google challenge

University Park, Pa. -- Students from IST, the College of Communications and the Smeal College of Business are teaming up for what might be the world’s largest academic competition.

IST Assistant Professor Jim Jansen’s e-marketing class, "IST 402 Emerging Issues in Technology," is among more than 20,000 students in 61 countries competing in the Google Online Marketing Challenge, which Penn State's teams began Monday.

Google gave each team a $200 credit for its AdWords program, which allows businesses to run sponsored links on Google searches based on key words users are likely to type when searching for products.

IST senior Danielle Booth and her team are working with Rapid Transit Sports, an athletic shoe and apparel store, and using AdWords to create an advertising campaign targeted at the State College area. When someone in State College searches terms like "sporting goods" or "Penn State apparel" in Google, a link to Rapid Transit's Web site will appear as one of their search options.

"It's mostly a local company and the Web site focuses on getting people into the store rather than selling things in the site," Booth said. "They also make custom footwear, which is a really special thing they do, so we're trying to market that to more people and get more people to come into the store."

The students work with the businesses to determine which key words will be best for them. They are responsible for managing the AdWords account over a three-week period that can begin any time until May.

Jansen said the challenge allows IST students to share their technical skills with advertising and business students, who know how to sell products but have little experience in e-marketing.

"Most search engine marketers have learned those skills through on-the-job training … there just aren't a lot of classes available yet," Jansen said. "This class is a great way for IST students, marketing students and advertising students to gain practical experience before they enter the job market."

Janine Tomaszewski, an advertising major who will graduate in May, is looking to do just that.

"Advertising on the Internet is growing so fast," Tomaszewski said. "In my advertising classes, we work mostly with the print side of things, so I thought this class would be a good way to learn the online part of it."

Tomaszewski's team is working with Webster's Bookstore Cafe, State College, to help promote the company’s new venture into online record sales.

Each student team in the competition is required to submit pre-campaign and post-campaign summaries to Google. Those reports will be judged by a 10-member academic panel – of which Jansen is a part – to determine a winner.

"This might just be the largest worldwide educational endeavor ever undertaken," Jansen said. "There are hundreds of universities around the world that are all using the same book and the same software to work with businesses in their local communities."

IST junior Andrew Brofft said working on the Google challenge has made him consider a minor in marketing.

Brofft and his team are creating a campaign for the State Theatre, State College, to promote its upcoming shows and online ticket sales.

"For them, online ticket sales are a lot more efficient than having people go into the theater and buy tickets there," Brofft said. "Hopefully we can increase their revenue from online sales.”

The winning challenge team will visit Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. to meet the team that created AdWords. Jamie Murphy form The University of Western Australia and Lee Hunter of Google organized the worldwide challenge.

Jansen said he is already planning to teach the course again next year, and he hopes to recruit even more business and advertising students.

"The course is an excellent way for university courses to bring their expertise to the local community," Jansen said.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009