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Laura V. Wilson communications strategist



Seeking entry-level communications/strategic planning position. PROFILE

After too many years spent reading medical records and interviewing witnesses to workers’ comp. injuries as a paralegal, I decided to go back to my original interest- advertising. It’s been a thrilling two years, filled with highs and lows, but I have always appreciated the opportunities this field gives to combine creativity with business knowledge- something I sorely missed as a paralegal. E D U C AT I O N

VCU Brandcenter (formerly Adcenter), Richmond, VA, M.S., Communications Strategy, 2008 College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, B.A., English, 2000 PLANNING SKILLS

Attending the Brandcenter for two years has equipped me with many planning skills: | meeting with and interviewing clients | conducting situational analyses | competitive reviews | mystery-shopping | preparing perceptual maps | SWOT analyses | various quantitative and qualitative research | segmentation studies | developing a brand book and brand architecture | developing strategic direction EXPERIENCE PLANNING INTERN, ZIG CHICAGO, IL SUMMER 2007

•Strategized insights to be used when approaching potential new business clients. •Led new business RFP research, insights and strategy for Chicago White Sox pitch. PA R T I C I PA N T, M A R T I N A G E N C Y S U M M E R W O R K S H O P R I C H M O N D , V A S U M M E R 1 9 9 9

•Prepared advertising campaign for Kellogg’s, presented to client and Martin Agency, team won competition.


•Prepared marketing plan for local chapter of USGBC non-profit. E T H N O G R A P H I C S T U D Y: H O W G R E E N I S T H E A V E R A G E C O N S U M E R ? FA L L 2 0 0 7

•Presented findings separately to author James Othmer, VCU PR Department and the Martin Agency’s Alliance for Climate Protection planning team. M A R K . C O S M E T I C S P R O J E C T FA L L 2 0 0 6

•Pitched and won class presentation judged by Martin Agency employees. SPECIAL INTERESTS

Knitting, traveling, celebrity culture, reading, cooking magazines, espresso drinks, green preservation.

Mario Kart Wii


Creative Brief

wii: Nintendo’s objective with the wii, according to CEO Satoru Iwata, is not "… about fighting Sony, but about how many people we can get to play games. The thing we're thinking about most is not portable systems, consoles, and so forth, but that we want to get new people playing games." Mario Kart wii: Mario Kart wii supports Nintendo’s Wi-Fi connection. Therefore, players can play opponents in their own living room as well as in living rooms across the country. It also comes with the Wii wheel, a wheel shaped peripheral to house the Wii remote. MarioKart Wii is launching Spring 2008 and Nintendo wants to take advantage of Mario’s enduring popularity to increase the number of Wii gamers.

TARGET: Age 25-40 HHI: $100,000+ Casual or Lapsed Gamers- They grew up playing Nintendo, specifically the Mario Brothers games, but as jobs, kids and bills have demanded more and more attention in their lives, Nintendo has fallen by the wayside. They didn’t buy a Nintendo 64. Or a GameCube. But they have noticed the hype surrounding the Wii and its unique remote. They’re starting to think that they can get their entertainment in a form like they did back when they were kids.

RESEARCH: Online gaming forums interviews with gamers, interviews with past Nintendo users OBJECTIVES: -Gain more Wii gamers -Extend engagement with Mario Kart Wii


Connect the real world with Mario’s game world. WHAT REASONS SUPPORT OUR POSITION TO THE LARGER AUDIENCE? Driving in a video game is an action that is accessible and relatable. That relatability can be used to attract those not currently interested in Mario games and keep Mario Kart top-of-mind even when not playing. WHAT MEDIA ARE INVOLVED? Online (community building) Partnerships (Google Maps, Garmin) Transportation vehicles (taxis and personal vehicles, soap box derby)

A downloadable program to your Wii syncs your scores and data to the Mario Match Up site through the Wii’s WiFi. You can choose to race your friends or those with similar or dissimilar interests. (i.e. political party, music taste, etc.)

Players can utilize Google Earth tracks to import real streets onto their Wii console. The number of real cities provided for Mario Kart Wii will increase with availability.

Players can also turn on real-time weather, sponsored by to either mimic the weather outside their window or the weather in the real-life city they’ve chosen.

Game consoles will be placed in taxis in major cities like New York, Chicago and London. We will sponsor local Soap Box Derbys and provide carts styled after various Mario Carts in the game.

A partnership with Garmin will add a Mario appearance to your GPS screen. Mario’s voice can guide your route as well. It has an on/off switch for days when you’re not so Mario-friendly.

Chicago White Sox

Creative Brief

PROBLEM: Two years after a rousing World Series win, the Chicago White Sox were in a slump. They failed to continue the momentum of their 2005 World Series win, and began experiencing declining fan interest. In order to be profitable, they need to get more people into the stands. Concession income, franchise opportunities and more all filter down from game attendance.

RESEARCH: Interviews: Chicago residents, current White Sox game attendants Secondary: Baseball blogs, White Sox & Chicago forums, White Sox and Chicago news articles.

TARGET: South Siders: Either born and bred, or transplants. Many South Siders have an inherent shame or embarrassment about their neighborhoods due to negative stereotypes fostered by other northern or western Chicago neighborhoods. Insight: Many South Siders are fickle in their support of the White Sox. Like a disappointed parent, they withhold their love and approval when the team is doing poorly, but are affectionate when the team is doing well. Opportunity: Strengthen sense of family among neighborhoods of the South Side.

FINDINGS: Insight: The South Side of Chicago has a rich cultural history which is often overlooked in favor of a reputation as a blue-collar, immigrant-heavy, less desirable area of Chicago. It originally was the historical home to Chicago’s rich with wide boulevards, grey stone mansions and row houses. It was the home of Chicago’s version of Harlem, Bronzeville, when millions of AfricanAmerican moved to Chicago in the early 20th century. It is home to houses built by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is the home to at least two city mayors. Opportunity: Take advantage of the inherent history and commonalities of its residents to build a sense of family and community around the diverse population inhabiting the South Side.

Change Attitude: To be from the South Side is like a badge of honor. It is not about being a criminal or a hoodlum, as outsiders would like to suggest. It is about family. But these fair-weather fans need to be reminded of the meaning of the word “family.” That family encompasses more than blood, it is about people coming together through love, similarities and background. The White Sox can only be as strong as the combination of the team and the neighborhood together. The team needs the support of their family, the neighborhoods, even if they sometimes disappoint the fans. Because the South Side is a part of the White Sox every time they are up to bat. They are all part of the same DNA. WHAT MEDIA ARE INVOLVED? Non-Trad.- exclusive to the South Side Outdoor, audio recordings at el stations in the South Side


Let South Siders know that they are all part of the same DNA.


Creative Brief

POSITION: In the spirit of Ritz’s recent campaign based on fun and Spam’s self-aware acceptance and mocking of the qualities that made it a gross “mystery meat” for so long in consumers’ minds, we want to reposition Velveeta as the “unapologetic processed cheese product.”

TARGET: In-the-Closet-ers 18-30 -Hidden Velveeta lovers. -Know current (healthy) food trends, but can’t give up foods they love. -Velveeta is too good for them to stop eating; they just enjoy the taste too much. -Don’t feel that it’s something they can admit to their friends. “If I had a sudden craving for Velveeta, I would first pick up a few essentials— bread, OJ, coffee—to sort of mitigate the Velveeta purchase, like a timid teenager slipping a box of condoms among his toothpaste, gum, and deodorant.” -Matt, 25

“I am trying to become a foodie, but there’s just something about Velveeta that is so comforting. I know that I should turn my nose up at Velveeta, cast it aside. But I just can’t.” -Jen, 28

WHAT DO WE WANT TO DO? Expose the hidden community of Velveeta lovers. WHAT IS THE THING WE WANT TO TELL THEM? It’s ok to like Velveeta. And there are more of you out there.

WHAT MEDIA ARE INVOLVED? Traditional (Print) Non-traditional (online, texting, outdoor) In-store (floor decals, coupon dispensers, end-caps) merchandise MANDATORIES? Logo

Idea: Velveeta Confessions

Phase One: People confess their love for Velveeta You can only enter this microsite by confessing something yourself.

“I eat Velveeta� T-shirts

This interactive ad, shown here in a subway station, videotapes confessions when you push the button. The confessions are then uploaded to the microsite.

Phase Two: People make confessions about their lives. People use the confession booths to confess about anything. Videos are uploaded to the website.

You can also send/receive confessions by text.

Or text your confession to billboards.

Ethnographic Study: How Green Is the Average Consumer? With two fellow strategists, I conducted a study on the average consumer’s thoughts and relationship with the green movement. We read books and blogs by distinguished authors in the field, and conducted primary research which was then divided along generational lines. There are very distinct attitudes and behaviors towards green products and marketing, and we found that many consumers were heavily influenced by social and political events occurring during their formative years.

People are seeing, listening to, and experiencing the green movement in different ways. A one-size-fits-all message won’t work with green marketing. In order to change anything, we believe that we need to change people’s attitudes and behaviors. The chart on the following page shows this. Understanding attitude and behavior and which life events have shaped these things will help us reach people in a more powerful, poignant way. “

Attitude +

Behavior =

Lifestyle Commitment









The 55s

The 15s

The 25s

For a behavioral change to occur there must first be a shift in one’s attitude. Each generation needs to be approached differently because their attitudes vary. When marketers can utilize the current attitudes, their buying behaviors can change resulting in a positive change towards living a healthier green lifestyle.

The 55s: They are on the right track with their behavior, but we need to amplify their attitude and transfer their conservation habits into other areas of their lives. They are turning off the lightbulb when they leave the room, but they could be turning off a CFL light bulb. Ultimately, make them aware that their current lifestyle is green. It won’t require too many changes. The 15s: They are in an excellent position in terms of both attitude and behaviors. They feel a sense of urgency and are doing their parts, getting active in causes and trying to preserve the world for their future. We want to shift their arms’ length approach to adults on environmental issues. We should invite them to the table and let them know that we can help them solve this problem. They don’t need to do everything themselves. The 25s: They are the hardest group to reach because they’re so influenced by peer pressure and social stigmas. They express their sentiments toward the environment through consumption. Their attitude shift should be awareness through education. It’s unrealistic that we can see an immediate change in behavior. We’ll start by getting them to buy more green products then help them understand the need for these products and the benefits they provide.



INSPIRATION: I read a letter-to-the-editor in which a man was writing to complain about the government helping out sub-prime mortgage holders- risky borrowers who took out more money than they could justify- who were in risk of defaulting on their mortgages. This man was upset because he had purchased a house he was sure he could afford for years to come. And now this other guy screwed up but would be affected minimally by his actions- and no lessons would be learned. I wanted to look at our relationship with money and how an increasing access to credit has affected that relationship. RESEARCH: Survey (>100 respondents), one-on-one interviews, journals Books, blogs, Newspaper/magazine/online articles I divided my findings into the 5 categories below:

The American Dream Current Events Lessons Learned Relationships Psychology Habits

The American Dream When I first started this project, I thought that I would be researching the last ten years or so and the recent real estate boom. Then I read that credit had been deregulated in 1978, increasing the availability of credit, and I thought I’d be researching the past 30 years. Next I came across a book called Financing the American Dream which further expanded my thoughts. It explored the idea that our entire country was founded on a faith in the future. Going back to when our founding fathers immigrated to this country, they were taking a risk that this gamble would pay off in the future. There's a longstanding willingness of Americans to get ahead by using credit. Americans also have an innate optimism and believe that if they want something they can achieve it. To many people, the American Dream is about self-fulfillment, freedom, a better life, and security. Unfortunately, sometimes the idea of the “American Dream” becomes subverted by the symbols of that American Dream: the house, two-car garage, white picket fence, etc. Since the 1920s the pursuit of the American Dream has been through consumer credit. And as a result of its increasing prevalence, consumer debt has also become more accepted.

Current Events Lessons Learned Unfortunately for consumers, 2/3 of the health of our country is measured by how much we spend. Even as we are entering a possible recession, our government encourages us to keep spending to keep the economy healthy. And if we look at the way our government deals with its own debt, it's easy to see how hard it is to be responsible about our money. There’s a 1 in 3 chance that because of the involvement of both the real estate and credit markets the upcoming recession will be worse than the recessions in 2001 and 1991. Americans are unaccustomed to recessions, especially ones where they have to spend less. Both past two recessions had very minor slowdowns in consumer spending for short periods of time. Also, during those recessions people used credit cards mostly for discretionary purchases. Now we use our credit cards on everything from groceries to gas. And most people will keep using credit cards regardless of the state of the economy- which is extremely dangerous.

The fact remains that most people do not grow up having educational or philosophic conversations about what money is and isn't, and what it can and can't do. Information-based money discussions are so taboo that we usually reach adulthood without a realistic sense of our family's finances. As a result of the money taboo, most kids grow up imitating their parents' way of handling money without even being aware of it. Unsurprisingly, people who rate their parents high on financially responsible have more of these habits themselves.

Relationships Because often money isn't discussed while growing up, people are uneasy talking about money. Many people consider debt and finances to be private and personal. Debbie, 50, stated that, “I was raised to think of money as being a private affair. I never knew how much money my parents made. It wasn’t something that was acceptable to talk about.” Sometimes we don’t talk about it because of shame over our financial habits. The more trouble some people get into with their money, the more secretive they become. In addition, because the age at which people wed is rising, partners bring extensive monetary histories to their union. Many individuals enter marriage with undisclosed financial allegiances outside the relationship. (67% of women and 74% of men enter marriage with at least some debt.) Given the avoidance, accessibility and ambivalence that surround money, individual debt habits are adding an explosive element to relationships.


Habits Online shopping, to say nothing of new credit card offers arriving almost daily in the mail have made keeping secrets about money easier, and fiscal selfcontrol harder than ever. The ability to spend and borrow money impulsively can be overwhelming, with ubiquitous ATMs, and internet banking. Household debt is almost 5% of a typical family's household income. Consumer debt, excluding mortgages, has doubled in the past decade and now averages close to $20,000 per household. Not only are we charging so much of our income, we've stopped saving and, in fact, are saving a negative amount of money, -$322 in 2006.

Obviously, money represents more than just money to people. Our relationship with money is very complicated and it can represent love, self-worth, power, security, dependence, freedom, etc. Studies have been done showing that people who are feeling sad and self-focused spend more money to acquire commodities than those in a natural emotional state, because of their heightened selffocus. When we borrow money, the reward portion of the brain is activated. Your brain thinks not of the long-term consequences but the short-term result: You have more cash in your pocket. The pain you are going to experience down the road of having to paythat's in the future, it's remote and abstract. Having money also increases feelings of self-sufficiency.

People in all socio-economic levels are trapped in self-destructive behaviors. Beth started a blog to discuss her attempts to avoid bankruptcy and discusses how she and her husband are more used to being in debt than experiencing prosperity. Her money problems became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Judith Levine wrote Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping and purchased nothing but necessities for a year. She saved $8,000, was sometimes bored and lonely but also felt liberated and began defining herself more as a citizen than a consumer.

Findings: An increasing access to credit has also increased our reluctance to talk about it. 1) The more credit that is available to people, the more they will take it. More restrictive countries are in better shape than countries with more open regulations. Issues with credit are more pressing in Europe and the United States compared to many Asian economies experiencing robust growth whose indebtedness tends to be lower. This is often because of the stronger role of the family and a more prudent financial tradition.

2) We need to become more conscious spenders. Looking at things differently is a theme running through conversations of Americans at all income levels these days as they review their spending habits. Nearly 2 out of 3 consumers intend to reduce indulgent spending in 2008 according to a new survey by HSBC Bank USA. 4 out of 5 want to increase the amount they save.

3) We need to start talking about money. We’re not talking about money in our homes and we’re not talking about it in school. We need to begin that conversation. Kids go to college and are assaulted by credit card companies and they don't know how to deal with them. Friends are starting to talk about economic topics, and it is starting to become more of a social conversation. People are starting to share experiences instead of giving expensive gifts or having a dinner party at home instead of going out to a nice restaurant. Because we're afraid to deal with money and finances, we've allowed it to take over and rule our lives and have the last word on how we live our lives. Only when we begin having an open dialogue about our finances will we be able to have that last word ourselves.

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Laura Wilson's Portfolio  

Portfolio of work I've done in the past two years at the VCU Brandcenter

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