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Thirty-six teams of students from Vega School, a brand of the Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), embarked on an academic adventure of a lifetime as they participated in the Vega Brand Challenge.

The Brand Challenge is an annual Vega event in which teams of second and third year, and Honours students, come together to form agencies and create concepts for actual clients such as ABSA, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and Mr Price to name but a few. The initiative is run at all four of Vega’s campuses across South Africa and lasts for five weeks.

According to Alex Sudheim, a Vega Cape Town Senior Copywriting Lecturer, the purpose of the Challenge is to afford students the opportunity to form simulated consultancy firms that undertake real-life industry briefs from external organisations. “It is important to note while these may be ‘simulated’ consultancy firms, Brand Challenge is a very real academic experience. These briefs are from paying clients who expect top-notch, industry-level brand communication solutions from their student agencies. Since the clients are paying, they own the intellectual property of the work created by students and often implement it in their actual brand communications.Education at Vega is as much about ‘doing’ as ‘learning’ and it has consequently hosted its Brand Challenge for over a decade. The annual event is a much anticipated one with students clamouring to partake and get some real client experience utilising what they have learnt, even if it is in a simulated environment.

“The programme presents a practical 360° view of a complex brand situation, grouping students into multi-disciplinary teams in order to identify the key brand challenges. Taking real-life industry briefs from twelve different external organisations, the teams conduct a full brand analysis and extensive research to determine key issues impacting the brands. The students identify key stakeholders in order to develop and execute original and meaningful communications campaigns for the specific client,” says Sudheim.

“The standard of work delivered from the students is so high that several of these clients return year after year to partake in the Vega Brand Challenges and some actually implement the concepts presented by the students,” adds Sudheim.

Some of the brands participating in this year’s Challenge include: Rage Festival (together with Vega Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban), Zailab Software, Martell Cognac, South Africa Day, ABSA Bank, Simodisa (Entrepreneur NGO), PASCAP, Life & Style Media, Olmeca Tequila, Gangstar Clothing, Sexy Food and the Foschini Group.

This is, undoubtedly, a hugely rewarding initiative that mirrors the actual business reality of the industry by having students form their own groups and devise solutions to tackle current business problems.

“The campaign produced by the team Sweep for PASCAP (Partnership for After-School Care Projects), an NGO dedicated to keeping kids off the streets and imparting real-world skills to them, was particularly powerful. Their concept, Youth is not a Privilege, and the beautifully crafted narrative surrounding it, made a deep impression upon the client and, if implemented, has the potential to create the brand awareness required by the NGO to generate significant funding,” says Sudheim.

“400 Francs put together a winning campaign for Rage Festival by utilising cutting-edge VR technology while 3rd Law answered in some style a difficult brief from Olmeca by creating a memorable brand experience in which Olmeca becomes the only tequila that is asked for by name.”

As a result of the networks established during the challenge, many of the clients subsequently approach Vega students to offer them the opportunity to complete their required internships.

“Brand Challenge is central to the ethos of Vega since, in order to graduate students who are industry-ready, it is imperative that they are exposed to industry realities as part of their academic journey. Working in an interdisciplinary team distinctively branded as a real-life consultancy and tackling real-time briefs from real-world clients is an invaluable experience for students in terms of gaining first-hand experience of what is expected of them in the industry they are about to enter. It furthermore has the advantage of allowing prospective employers to accurately gauge a student’s ability to operate on the professional levels expected of the brand communication industry,” explains Sudheim.

Vega is proud to produce students who are clearly the next generation of innovative and creative brand thinkers and we look forward to seeing what ground-breaking and forward thinking campaigns they produce in the near future.

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