University of Nebraska–Lincoln's first team from CoJMC competes in Adobe Analytics Challenge

University of Nebraska–Lincoln's first team from CoJMC competes in Adobe Analytics Challenge

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 9:30am
Adobe Analytics logo with graph bars
Adobe Analytics partnered with Sony PlayStation for this year's challenge.

by Savanah Baker

A graduate student team from the College of Journalism & Mass Communications, assisted by Professor Valerie Jones, is participating in the Adobe Analytics Challenge (AAC).

The AAC was established in 2005 as a BYU-only event, but opened to schools across the United States in 2010.

“I hadn’t known about it before,” Jones said. “I’ve been actively exploring how to get students exposure to different analytics tools beyond Google Analytics, and this seemed like a great way to do that.”

This year’s client is Sony PlayStation, a recognizable brand in entertainment and branding. According to the AAC website, “Sony PlayStation will provide this year’s contestants with a unique customer analytics challenge to discover cross-channel insights across the PlayStation App and PlayStation.com that will help Sony provide even more amazing experiences to its customers.”

In essence, the team will be working with raw data from Sony PlayStation in Adobe Analytics to draw conclusions from consumer usage in search of insights that Sony may use to help enhance consumer experiences. Exact details regarding the challenge cannot be released as proprietary information from Sony PlayStation is given to each team under contract that they will not discuss it publically.

The first round of team presentations are due Oct. 17, and judging will commence Oct. 18-20, with the finalists being announced on Oct. 28. Adobe will fly the finalists to Lehi, Utah, to the Adobe Campus where they will give their presentations to a live audience. Winners will be announced and prizes will be awarded ranging from $30,000 to $300.

Money is an added incentive but not the team’s main reason for joining.

“There’s exposure to actual clients and to Adobe,” Jones said. “They’ve hired folks who have participated in the challenge before…so this is kind of a test to see if this is a challenge we want to incorporate in the class.”

The three graduate students who make up the team are Cameron Carlow, Bekah McBride and Abby Meyer. Jones approached them about the challenge upon seeing their contribution and excellence in her course Digital Insights and Analytics, which explores how various channels of digital communication can be used to analyze audiences, connect with them and ultimately build brands.

“I was thrilled when Professor Jones approached me and asked if I would like to participate in the Adobe Analytics Challenge,” McBride said in an email interview. “While we are still in the initial stages of the competition, I'm already gaining so much from this experience. Win or lose, I know our team will walk away from this challenge with a greater understanding of analytical tools and how they are applied to real-world situations.”

Carlow enjoys digital analytics, and while his initial decision was to turn down Jones’ offer, he changed his mind.

“I have a passion for digital analytics, most notably how data should be the driving force behind marketing decisions, so this challenge seemed like a way to feed my passion and represent University of Nebraska–Lincoln at the same time,” Carlow said in an email interview. “When I was first asked to be a part of this team, I had 100 reasons to say no. In fact, I typed up an email declining the invitation. But I couldn't hit send.”

Meyer said she was thrilled when offered the opportunity by Jones and finds the competition to be a worthwhile and rewarding experience.

“Digital analytics are becoming an increasingly essential tool to businesses, and I know this competition will help us become more data-driven individuals, helping our own workplaces reach their digital potential in the future,” Meyer said in an email interview. “It is rewarding to consider that Sony Playstation could use our data insights to ultimately provide even more amazing experiences to their customers.”

Carlow agreed and said, “I think we are seeing the advertising and marketing profession -- and journalism for that matter -- moving away from a reliance of hitting a large audience to a focus on hitting the right audience. We can use analytics to help us target those audiences and move them through their customer journey -- from interest to purchase, or from brand follower to brand loyalist.”

While the three graduate students will comprise the team, Jones will work as their mentor through the challenge. All the mentors of the finalist groups will receive a pass to attend the Adobe Summit, while the mentor of the winning group will receive an all-expense paid trip to the Adobe Summit.

“Being a part of this team is just another example of the outstanding experience that one can expect as a student at University of Nebraska–Lincoln,” McBride said. “The talented faculty and staff have always gone the extra mile, encouraging and supporting students to reach their potential and, really, being a part of this challenge is just the icing on the cake.”