Strategic Communications and Advertising Planning – Assignment 2 – 88%

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Untitled-1The second assignment of this unit was one of the most unique and intriguing tasks from third year. The assignment had two parts, first of which involved,

  a critical review of past campaigns that had received complaints on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website relating to harmful   and offensive advertising, while assessing whether the voluntary codes that operate within the UK are working.

I was given the freedom to chose either a particular company, industry or time period for investigation. Initially, selecting campaigns proved difficult, as the vast majority of complaints derived from misleading ads, not harmful and offensive ones. After significant examination of the ASA website, bearing in mind part two of this task, which warranted for a variety of communication tools to be featured in a campaign. I decided to focus on the first ever e-cigarette ads.

E-cigarettes were first promoted in 2013 by brands VIP and E-Lites (Buchanan, 2014; Sweney, 2013). The methods used to achieve brand awareness received a multitude of complaints regarding harmful and offensive advertising, raising attention from the ASA. As a result, the first two e-cigarette ads were banned in some form. I analysed the creative appeals of the ads and suggested parallels between traditional tactics used to promote cigarettes.

The ASA’s judgement of the two ads appeared to be a catalyst in bringing to light the social damage unregulated e-cigarette advertising could cause. Whether the brands intentionally took advantage of an unregulated environment in order to most effectively achieve their goal of brand awareness, remains debatable. Regardless, following extensive public consultation, the ASA proactively introduced new sections to the CAP and BCAP codes, directly regulating e-cigarettes, in November 2014 (Asa.org.uk, 2014b).

The ASA’s initial negligence placed consumers in a vulnerable positon, giving power to the ad industry and enabling marketers to create content which potentially caused detriment to society. However, through recent complaint analysis, the ASA’s relatively fast reaction to implement new rules, had been judged to have effectively protected consumers and society. Perhaps exemplifying this shift, E-Lites had recently rebranded to be called Logic (Logicvapes.com, 2017). In analysing a key time period for the ad industry, my report demonstrated the need for fast and dynamic action from the ASA, yet, positively supported the organisation in being an effective method for regulating the UK ad industry.

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The second part of this task asked me to,

 critically review how you would monitor and evaluate whether this was a successful      campaign or not.

I chose to focus on E-Lites’ campaign, which consisted of: a radio ad, TV ad, Internet banner ad, poster at a bus-stop and display ad on the side of a bus. This broad spectrum enabled me to explore a wide variety of monitoring and evaluation methods.

A key theme of this essay derived from the opportunities digital technology can provide. However, I began by highlighting some more traditional techniques such as, pre-testing and publicity tracking. These can be effective tools, yet do have limitations that digital technology can overcome quite well. Historically, ‘marketing’ has been unable to confidently claim with a credible degree of accuracy that a particular campaign resulted in ‘x’ number of sales. This is due to a plethora of external factors influencing consumer behaviour. The Internet, however, has provided unparalleled tracking potential. E-Lites’ banner ad offers the ability to accurately determine how effective the ad was in making a sale, the click-through and bought rate (Chaffey and Smith, 2013). This is but one example, numerous others featured in the essay.

Despite acknowledgement of the monitoring and evaluation potential of the Internet, I had to relate the various challenges of this new technology. Computer software partly helps the process of converting data into useful information, but turning the information into tangible business decisions is a complex practice needing highly skilled strategic analysts. Stemming from this, misinterpretation of data is common. A company may choose to monitor so called vanity metrics (Chaffey and Smith, 2013), for example, page views and number of followers, in relation to its objective of increasing brand awareness. However, this key performance indicator (KPI) presents flawed relevance to the number of people actually trying a product. This misinterpretation can distort the overall evaluation of a campaign and lead to misinformed future objectives.

Challenges will need to be overcome involving: speed, cost, dynamism and transparency. Ironically, these challenges with the technology are identical to the opportunities it will offer.

I greatly enjoyed writing these two essays and was extremely grateful to be awarded 88%. This unit was a favourite from third year, largely due to committed, passionate and engaging tutelage from award-winning blogger Jeff McCarthy. I was overjoyed to achieve an average of 86%, a grade I didn’t expected to attain in a unit from third year.


Email: hudacummings@gmail.com

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CORPORATE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT: EXAM – 76%

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By achieving 76%, this exam resulted in an unexpected personal milestone of progression. Throughout the majority of tasks in third year, I was instructed to analyse a firm’s current situation and with this information, suggest a strategy for the future of the company. One can find the challenges initially faced in my other blog posts. However, I believe my success in this exam exhibits the progression I have made in efficiently applying this practice.

The exam was slightly unique, in that it was open-book and that I was asked to prepare a two-page analysis of the case-study organisation, Sports Direct, to be included in the exam. The open-book nature and the prior knowledge of the case study meant I was able to gather useful information, allowing me to construct highly detailed and specific answers.

The exam had three questions. The first was previously informed to be either CSR or Ethics. The other two were a raffle between ten topics. Commonly with exams, advice from tutors involved; out of the ten topic areas, choose four or five to cover in depth, increasing the likelihood of two of them coming up.

Sports Direct was specifically chosen because of the damage its reputation had received from various stakeholders. Through rigorous research of Sports Direct, looking at the historical timeline of negative media coverage and the manner in which Sports Direct handled the situation. I was able to see the links between the company’s failure and the theory covered in the unit.

The extent to which I achieved this was extremely surprising. When one has prepared specific questions for an exam, the anticipation of whether they are going to come up is immense. This is intensified even more where, instead of covering four-to-five topics, I had gambled with only preparing three. Time was a major influencing factor of this but I was also quietly confident that these were by far the most important issues. Despite my confidence, I was absolutely stunned when I opened the paper and saw, the three questions I had prepared for the second part all featured in the exam in the exact way I had written them. I was able to answer three out of the four question (although only two were needed) and essentially write down my answers word-for-word.

At the time I brazenly thought, I couldn’t have gotten luckier if I had written the exam myself. However, on further reflection, I found a great deal of pride in managing to analyse a company’s situation and prioritise the most important actions, to the extent that I had reached the same conclusions as my tutors through their choice of questioning. I believe this grade showcases the ultimate progression I have made through repeatedly engaging with this analytical practice and gives me great confidence for my future work and career.


Email: hudacummings@gmail.com

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Corporate Reputation Management: Report – 85%

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This assignment asked myself and a partner to create a report with the plans for a corporate communication campaign designed to enhance corporate reputation. Like previous assignments, we were given the freedom to choose our own firm to examine and were tasked with conducting a situation analysis. However, the analysis was much shorter, just four pages long, meaning it had to be prioritised much more rigidly than the ten-page VW analysis. We chose to study Kellogg’s, which presented unique challenges that had to be overcome.

My partner and I used the analysis to decide on one issue to focus our communication campaign on. We proposed six SMART objectives: three business-orientated and three communications and created a campaign message. Using Mitchel et al. (1997) framework, we conducted in-depth stakeholder analysis, which enabled our target publics to be accurately and justly determined. We focused on consumers, media and shareholders.

For consumers we proposed three initiatives:

  • An interactive sporting event at England’s first game of the 6 Nations, themed around the 1990s hit UK TV show Gladiators.
  • A social media competition in partnership with FitBit: #BeatTheBadges.
  • Local community development in collaboration with the This Girl Can sports-orientated initiative.

Our activities strategically targeted the consumer behaviour trends identified from the situation analysis, while staying inline with Kellogg’s corporate image, enabling the enhancement of its reputation.

We used a variety of media tools to communicate with our target publics:

  • A national media press conference
  • A host of press releases, including: national, local, specialist and social media.
  • A press day at the Manchester Factory
  • Bloggers and other online influencers.

The media channel complimented the activity it attached to, such as social media press releases for the Fitbit competition, in order to create a streamlined integrated campaign.

This assignment presented unique challenges and in overcoming, I believe to have learnt more about the process of analysing a company’s situation and weighing up the most important aspects to take action upon. When we discovered Kellogg’s impressive reputation, my partner and I rationalised, the ideal action did not lie with outlandish PR stunts but rather with engaging activities that compliment the brand and help bolster its reputation.

We approached with a considerable amount of respect towards Kellogg’s, being mindful of conserving its reputation over other more extreme tactics. This assignment impressed upon me, that just because the task gives unbridled freedom to choose any communication tactics, there are some instances where erring on the side of caution is the most favourable strategy for sustaining reputation and long-term success.

My partner and I received 85% for this task, a grade I’m very proud of, given the obstacles we overcame.


Email: hudacummings@gmail.com

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Strategic Communications & Advertising Planning: Part 1 – Report – 90%

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This post is the first piece of work from the third year of my degree. This year, the tasks primarily focussed on applying theory in relation to a firm and its particular scenario. This assignment had two parts, an individual report and a group presentation.

My team and I decided upon Volkswagen (VW), as the task warranted a company that was in need of refocusing or refreshment. The report involved a situation analysis of VW, examining: the customer context, the business context, the internal context and the external context. It heavily concentrated on VW’s emissions scandal of 2015.

Using stakeholder analysis, PESTLE, SWOT and in-depth market and consumer analysis facilitated by Mintel, I was able to prioritise four key issues VW faced and identify SMART marketing communications objectives justly addressing the problems.

A difficulty I initially found with this task involved diluting down the vast amount of data I gathered. The report had a 10-page limit, meaning by no means could all the data be included. With performing numerous situation analyses in my other units, I became more experienced at this practice of narrowing down, while attaining the ‘bigger picture’. Being able to find data, analyse it in its entirety and then pick out the valuable bits of information in order to create an informed prioritised plan of action, is a skill I believe to have progressively developed during third year.

I received 90% for this assignment, a grade I’m extremely proud to receive and did not expect to ever achieve at university. Please use the email below to view a sample of the report.


Email: hudacummings@gmail.com

LinkedIn: Yehudah Cummings

Twitter: Yehudah Cummings

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Click to view my CV.