Advertising competition gives students an edge

Yardsticks offers out-of-class experience, internships

By Katelyn Mudd | 10/13/13 7:00pm


Courtesy / Courtney Petersen
2012 Yardsticks Competition

Today, college students are always looking to have the upper hand when it comes to having real-life experience for when they graduate and move on to the job market. The better the resume, the better the chances. The Yardsticks College Creative Competition and Critique aims to bulk up students’ resumes.

“Yardsticks is a competition for area college students in advertising and graphic design,” said Frank Blossom, affiliate professor at Grand Valley State University. “They bring their concept to the event, where judges will limit down and critique the work to ten finalists. Last year, the four finalists were even hired as interns.”

The annual advertising competition is sponsored by the Polishing Center and was started by Blossom as a way to give students experience outside of the classroom setting. It aims to kick off students’ advertising careers by giving them constructive feedback from area professionals, building their portfolios, and giving them the opportunity to network with others who are passionate about the field of advertising.

“I was curious to see how my advertising work would stand up against my peers, and I wanted to hear from advertising professionals about working in the field,” said Courtney Petersen, one of last year’s winners. “Outside of classes, I didn’t have much advertising experience, and I wanted to be exposed to more out-of-class work.”

Petersen found the competition to be helpful in gaining broader perspectives on her advertising work and on the industry in general.

“I’ve gained a much better understanding of the entire advertising process,” Petersen said. “I’m much more well-rounded than I was before, and I’m more aware of my strengths and weaknesses.”

Last year’s campaign was for an organization called Hello Michigan. The winners of the competition created a website for the organization called MiReasons that they are currently helping to run and monitor.

“I was one of four winners,” Petersen said. “(The entries were for) an outside campaign for what was going on in West Michigan and why you should move to West Michigan. For example, like the growing job market and that we have more culture here in Grand Rapids than most people think.”

The competition this year is having students create and present an advertising campaign to raise awareness for Bagger Dave’s Legendary Burger Tavern’s burgers and local craft beer selection. The entries will be judged by a panel of professionals, which include advertisers from Fairly Painless Advertising, Do More Good, Auxiliary Advertising & Design, Stevens Advertising, Palazzolo Design, and Extra Credit Projects.

“This is great networking,” Blossom said. “You get to meet students from the area and interact with professionals. Often students get hired; in a number of cases after getting critiqued, students continue their work and enter other contests and win.”

“We (last year’s winners) are still continuing to work on Hello West Michigan,” Petersen added. “Just like this year’s winners will have a similar opportunity to continue their campaign works with Bagger Dave’s Legendary Burger Tavern.”

Aside from gaining professional advice and perspectives, the competition further adds to students’ portfolios.

“The finished campaign for Hello West Michigan makes a fantastic piece for my portfolio,” Petersen said. “It’s an amazing feeling as a recent grad to see a campaign that you created from start to finish running in places like Chicago.”

The Yardsticks Competition will be held Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. in the City Flats Ballroom in Grand Rapids. Registration is open to all students, but spots are limited to the first 50 entrants. Registration ends on Oct. 19.

For more information on the Yardsticks competition and to register visit

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