Four UBC students head to finals of Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec

Four UBC students are finalists in Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec, a competition that searches for the most promising business and marketing minds from over 30 universities across the country. Having surpassed several stages of application, Maciek Piskorz, Austin Smith, Trixie Hernandez and Tessa Yin will head to the closing ceremonies in Toronto later this month

The case competition tasks students with creating marketing solutions for a new Chevrolet vehicle. The winning team receives the title of Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec, as well as a car.

“It’s really difficult to get experience or knowledge beyond theoretical stuff that you get in classes,” said Hernandez, a third-year Bachelor of Commerce student. Sponsored case competitions like Top Ad fill this gap and provide practical, industry-specific opportunities that can be difficult to find on campus.

Spokesperson for the competition Monica Yacoub emphasizes that the benefits of Top Ad do not end with the monetary or material prizes. Students in the top 25 are able to apply to “exclusive, above entry-level positions” with sponsor companies such as PepsiCo or McDonalds and are provided with mentorship during the competition. 

According to Yacoub, judges are looking for out-of-the-box ideas and for students to challenge the mainstream direction of the industry. Experience doesn't necessarily give students the upper hand either — only two MBA students have won since the competition began in 2007.

UBC placed five teams in the top 25 and two in the top 10. The finalists from UBC look at the competition as a chance to shed their underdog label.

“UBC is just not on the map,” said Hernandez. “East Coast schools have so much training, so much exposure to these types of competitions that it feels like we aren’t in the game.”

While UBC marketing students have comparable skills to their East Coast counterparts, they may not find themselves awarded the same opportunities. Piskorz said that the West Coast often gets looked over by companies simply because the companies are located in Toronto or Montreal.

Hernandez also wants to work against marketing’s reputation for corporate megalomania, saying that it’s really about understanding what people want and then being able to bring that to them and communicate the value.

The finalists urge anyone with an interest in Top Ad to apply next year — regardless of their faculty. According to Piskorz, marketing is “one of those things that pretty much anyone with a good idea and a little bit of common sense can do.”