Management Team Defeats UGA on mtvU's "Quad Squads"

Pitted against peers from the University of Georgia, four undergraduate students at Georgia Tech College of Management emerged victorious on the November 28 episode of the reality-show series "Quad Squads."

A new program of MTV's mtvU network, which is broadcasted on college campuses nationwide, "Quad Squads" features the Tech and UGA students in three episodes competing to see which team can devise the best marketing plan for Amp'd Mobile, a new phone company whose service allows customers to access the Internet, play mp3s, and watch streaming video on their mobile phones.

The Tech team - seniors Christin Hubbard and Matt Swanburg, junior Jason Nelson and sophomore Vicki Rokhlin - learned they'd won during taping of the final episode November 13 after presenting their plan to marketing and advertising executives for Amp'd.

Their prize package includes a $1,000 scholarship for each team member, a trip to mtvU's Spring Break and a year of free service from Amp'd. The victory episode will continue airing regularly until Dec. 4, and all three five-minute shows will be available online indefinitely at mtvU's Website Then, click on the green "enter here" bar and scroll through the list of shows.

"We always thought we were going to win," Swanburg says. But he concedes that viewers might have made a different prediction after the second episode aired October 31 (the first was on October 10).

"They portrayed us as underdogs in the second episode," Hubbard says, explaining that the team didn't want to reveal too many of their marketing ideas to their competitors, so the University of Georgia appeared out front at that point.

Team members say they learned to be careful about what they said on camera after the first episode when they saw how editing could be used to play up inter-group friction. "They could get things out of us, get us to say things," Hubbard says.

Filming proved to be a "reality" check for the team in other ways. "For example, we could sit here and talk with mtvU filming us," Hubbard elaborates, "and if they liked something, they would say, 'Stop, say that again. You move over here; the light wasn't right.'"

"It's not really reality TV if you have to do everything three or four times," Nelson adds.

He and his team members didn't know each other before mtvU selected them for the show after Tech marketing faculty encouraged students to audition. Show producers approached Georgia Tech and UGA because they wanted to pit schools with existing rivalries against each other.

Though each episode of "Quad Squads" is short, mtvU spent hours filming the Tech team, recording group meetings, conducting interviews, and following each student around campus. Team members spent many more hours off-camera formulating their strategy, a six-week process for which mtvU provided a $2,500 budget.

The team didn't know what the challenge was until taping began, but they knew it would involve marketing. The show's producers estimated it would only take ten hours a week of the students' time, but the amount proved to be much greater (approximately 120 hours total). "I had to quit a weekend job at Red Lobster for this," Nelson says.

During the home stretch, the team worked more than twenty-four hours straight. "I was really impressed with how well we came together in the last twenty-four hours," Rokhlin says. "It was a really stressful situation, but it was so fun!"

For their marketing plan to reach the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old demographic desired by Amp'd, they created a variety of materials with the help of design students, including print-quality advertisements, a super-hero mascot and an elaborate model of an interactive tent booth for marketing the product's high-tech features at college sporting events.

Their market research showed that Amp'd would have to move beyond traditional media to reach this demographic, so their strategy included commericals shown in movie theaters and ads printed on pizza delivery boxes. All of their suggested promotional efforts were designed to drive people to the company's Web site, where they could learn more about the phone.

"Their whole presentation was very polished," says Fred Johnson, vice president of marketing for Amp'd who judged the contest. "What stood out overall was their professionalism and attention to detail. When they brought out the mockup of the booth, it blew us away. In a lot of professional presentations, they leave you with one last thing. They had three or four last things."

Despite all their hard work, Tech's team members haven't gained much fame from the show, because mtvU is only broadcasted to college dormitories and campus buildings like student and recreation centers. But they figure their most important audience is composed of the employers who will be impressed to see this experience on their resumes. "This is going to look incredible," Rokhlin says.

Writer: Brad Dixon, College of Management