The MTSU class met with Walid Saba (head of marketing design, Chrysler Group) to pitch ad concepts. Seated: Saba (left) and Prof. Dick Williams.MURFREESBORO, TN—These days, Middle Tennessee State University is making a different kind of business deal. A group of 12 students in the university’s College of Mass Communication, handpicked by Professor Dick Williams for a synergistic marketing class, is working for Detroit-based Chrysler.
“The idea for this class evolved from a conversation with my friend Luis Resto, during a summer visit to Detroit,” Williams said. “Luis is one of the co-writers of the Eminem hit, ‘Lose Yourself,’ which Chrysler used to launch their new Chrysler 200 during the Super Bowl.”
From his front porch, Resto connected Williams to Olivier François, head of the Fiat brand and chief marketing officer at Chrysler, and Williams heard back on his drive home to Nashville. Within a matter of hours, the deal was done. Williams would construct a class with the goal of getting Chrysler fresh advertising material and giving students realworld experience.
The team, which consists of upperclass students with such majors as artist management, audio production and film production, has created an advertising campaign for Chrysler’s revamped Fiat 500, and is working on a similar project for the company’s SRT brand, the latter being produced at the suggestion of Ralph Gilles, head of the brand.
Alaina Cross, a musician and student at MTSU, was chosen by the group as the artist that will be represented by the students for the semester. Students were assigned to put together a press package and promotion plan, as well as record a dance-pop song and a music video.
Cross’ song, “Handle Me,” was written by another student, Michael Watson. The track was recorded by Taylor Bray and Jeffrey Braun, class members and Silver and Gold winners in this year’s AES traditional recording competition. “Handle Me” was mixed by five-time Grammy award-winner John Jaszcz (theyoshman.com) and was produced by Dick Williams. The music video features Cross driving a Fiat 500, with the camera zooming in on a closeup of the logo at the end of the song.
“Several students and a couple of professors brought Alaina Cross to my attention,”Williams said. “I wasn’t sure if she was right for the song we selected until we started recording it in the studio. Once she gained confidence, her talent really started to shine and I knew we made the right decision.”
Through weekly meetings, a couple of trips to Detroit and advice from Williams, the group hopes they have come up with a successful campaign that will impress Chrysler.
Students pitched storyboard ideas to Walid Saba, the group creative director of Chrysler, during a meeting in October. A businessman who wears his artist’s heart on his sleeve, Saba was enthusiastic about the creativity of young minds and readily gave his story to the students.
“Everyone knows what beautiful is,” Saba said. “You don’t have to be educated to recognize beauty. Fundamentally, when you look at something beautiful, you almost always get a majority take on that. As a designer, you have to be able to break it down to its fundamental variables so everyone can see it.”
Keyboardist, producer and allaround Detroit music guru Resto was called in to write and give music advice to the team. Resto also wrote the music for the student-produced video that introduced Chrysler to MTSU at a Detroit meeting in October.
Several students were also taken on trips to Detroit by Williams to get a better feel for the brands, touring the impressive Chrysler building, meeting with advertising officials, and even racing an SRT Jeep Grand Cherokee around the Chrysler track.
“I’m a car guy, I’ve always loved cars,” said Wesley Oakes, a recording industry management major in the class. “This has been awesome.”
The goal of the class has been to bring real-world experience into the classroom, and Williams hopes to have done just that. “Students are experiencing something they would never have an opportunity to see under any other circumstances,” Williams said. “Having the association of a major manufacturer like Chrysler is truly an honor for my class and the university.”
MTSU Department of Recording Industry