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Haas team wins regional National Student Advertising Competition

ImagiCal team
imagiCal’s Executive Leadership Team

A plan to help marketers design and place creative, data-driven ads that could deliver a high return on investment (ROI) landed an undergraduate team a first place district win at the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). 

The competition, which was supposed to be held at San Jose State University, took place via Zoom on April 24-25. It’s the team’s first major win since 2016.

Team members: The 29-member team, called imagiCal, included UC Berkeley undergraduate students from multiple disciplines, including business, economics, computer science, sociology, and architecture. This year’s team was led by imagiCal’s President, Maya Iyer, BS 21 (economics). Presenters included: Shelley Cai, BA 21 (sociology); Cicily Deng, BS 22; Nikhil George, CS 22 (computer science); and Brendan Shih, BS 23.

Berkeley Haas-sponsored imagiCal team.
A screenshot of imagiCal’s leadership team and NSAC presenters. From left to right: Jago Pang, Tyler Wu, Frances Cheng, Maya Iyer, Vicky Lin, Amber Chen, Michelle Gong, Melody Ding, Kelly Pan, Cicily Deng, Brendan Shih, Shelley Cai, and Jordan Loeffler.

The field: About 2,000 undergraduate students from 200 schools around the country competed in district-level competitions before advancing to the final round. Haas competed against teams from San Jose State University, University of Nevada, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and University of San Francisco

The challenge: The team was tasked with developing a business and marketing strategy to promote the Adobe Experience Cloud–a digital platform to manage online marketing–among advertising media buyers. 

The plan: The team’s campaign slogan was “Data-backed, Story-driven,” showcasing the ways that marketers could create a curated ad experience using data-informed messaging.

Secret sauce: “Our secret sauce lies in our diversity,” said Tyler Wu, BS 22. “We pride ourselves on having a diverse community of students, which allows us to consider multiple points of view, learn from each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and think creatively.

Wu also credited the team’s success to student designers who were able to see the practicality of certain ad executions and data scientists who crunched the numbers to see the potential impact of these executions. 

The Haas factor: “Our Haas faculty advisor, Judy Hopelain, was very helpful in guiding us through this difficult case,” said Wu.  “With her expertise in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, we were able to gain a stronger understanding of how to market B2B products and approach our campaign strategy.”

Diane Rames, a NSAC advisor, also helped the imagiCal team with their B2B marketing and guided them through the competition.

NSAC is a college advertising competition with 16 districts and over 150 teams nationwide. Each year, students are challenged to create a multi-million dollar advertising campaign for a corporate sponsor.

A simple trick for seeing the world through fresh eyes

Kids looking at an aquarium
Photo: Aleksandar Nakic for iStock by Getty Images

The commute from downtown San Francisco, where Assoc. Prof. Clayton Critcher lives, to his office at Haas is roughly 12 miles. Not ideal, he knows, but when he made the move he tried to look on the bright side. “I figured I’d get to drive across the Bay Bridge every morning, see the scenery, and maybe this would add to my quality of life,” he says. “Unfortunately, I appreciated what I saw for about three days and then started growing blind to it.”

Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as habituation. Novelty wears off; what is fresh grows stale; beauty no longer captivates. As he personally experienced this universal human tendency many days of the week, Critcher began to wonder if there might be a way to slow the process down. How can we stir up our waning sense of wonder? With Minah Jung and Fausto Gonzalez from New York University, Critcher found that a relatively small intervention can, in fact, go a long way toward this end. (Their results were published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.)

Their finding is rooted in a mechanism that Critcher and his colleagues call the “vicarious construal effect.” In short, by imagining an experience through somebody else’s eyes, people are themselves able to capture an appreciation that they had either lost or never possessed in the first place.

By imagining an experience through somebody else’s eyes, people are themselves able to capture an appreciation that they had either lost or never possessed in the first place.

Experimental interventions

The researchers ran more than a dozen experiments in which participants were asked to watch the same short video clip three times in a row. (These clips varied in the responses they evoked, from laughter to disgust.) Predictably, when participants were asked to rate how funny or sad or uplifting they found a particular clip on a scale from 1 to 100, ratings dropped with each successive viewing. However, by asking one group of participants to consider what somebody seeing the clip for the first time might see—by pushing people to step outside of their own experience—the researchers were able to significantly reduce the rate at which people grew habituated to the clip. That is, their ratings of their own experience dropped 60% to 70% less between the second and third viewings.

The vicarious construal effect also proved influential outside of this strict framework. In one study, for instance, participants watched short clips of Japanese anime. A subset of those who had no particular interest in the form was told to look for what an anime fan might enjoy about the clip. Through this lens, the participants themselves expressed a greater personal appreciation for what they saw. This result held even in an experiment that had people who could not speak Spanish watch a Spanish-dubbed clip of Friends. Those who were prompted to consider what a Spanish-speaking fan might enjoy in the clip liked it more themselves.

“This was a case where it seemed like the intervention would in no way be useful: These people couldn’t even speak Spanish,” Critcher says. “And yet, without understanding the dialog, they still enjoyed it more.”

This finding about a Spanish-dubbed Friends raises a key question that Critcher is now exploring: How far can vicarious construal effects reach? The degree to which somebody likes anime, or Jerry Seinfeld, or polar bears—three examples of video clips that participants watched — is a politically and morally neutral issue. Opinions on these topics aren’t classified as “wrong” or “bad.” This changes when it comes to politically charged subjects: Might a political progressive overcome some of their own biases against a conservative viewpoint if asked to consider it from the perspective of a supporter? This question becomes all the more important given the recent proliferation of fake news, in which liberals and conservatives alike are often duped into believing fictitious news stories that spread falsehoods sympathetic to their own side. Might encouraging people to consider the media through their political opponents’ eyes—the vicarious construal effect—help to eliminate political partisans’ biased tendencies?

Rediscovering joy

Whether or not this turns out to be the case, Critcher offered one important consideration in the application of the results. In all of the cases he studied, researchers told participants to adopt somebody else’s perspective, but the participants didn’t know why they were being asked to do this. It is possible that this ignorance is essential to the result. Critcher may not be able to rediscover the joy of his commute by simply asking himself what a tourist driving over the Bay Bridge would appreciate. His awareness of the deception could blunt its power.

Simply trying to think about what someone else might see actually changes the way we see and interpret what we’re doing, changes the emotions we feel.

These larger questions aside, though, Critcher reiterated the scientific legitimacy this work lends to the old adage encouraging us to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes. “Simply trying to think about what someone else might see actually changes the way we see and interpret what we’re doing, changes the emotions we feel,” he says. “It can help people to rediscover what they once saw in experiences they’ve had many times, or even help people to enjoy an experience that they weren’t initially predisposed to like.”

Free “Leading Through Crisis” video series features top Berkeley Haas experts

Leading Through Crisis banner

BERKELEY, Calif.—Berkeley Executive Education has released a free weekly video series featuring top faculty offering insights on leading through crisis.

The short videos feature Berkeley Haas faculty responding to the uncertainty and volatility created by the coronavirus pandemic with expertise across a wide range of fields—from psychology, sociology, and organizational behavior to economics and neuroscience.

Produced while sheltering-in-place, the “Leading Through Crisis” series brings the unique Berkeley and Bay Area perspective on culture, leadership, and innovation to our current challenges.

Videos will be released weekly throughout the spring:

  • Leading Culture Through Crisis with Jennifer A. Chatman, the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management at Berkeley Haas and co-founder and director of the Berkeley Haas Culture Initiative. Chatman is a leading researcher in the area of organizational culture and leadership.
  • Leading in a Time of Crisis with Homa Bahrami, a professional faculty member and international educator, advisor, and author. Bahrami specializes in organizational flexibility, team alignment, and dynamic leadership in global, knowledge-based industries.
  • Organizational Adaptation in a Time of Crisis with Sameer Srivastava, the Harold Furst Chair in Management Philosophy and Values. Srivastava’s research unpacks the complex interrelationships that people forge within and across groups. His work uses computational methods to examine how culture, cognition, and networks relate to career outcomes.
  • The Neuroscience of Work-From-Home Productivity with Sahar Yousef, a professional faculty member who specializes in applying and leveraging cutting-edge neuroscience research to improve productivity, innovation, and wellness.
  • Becoming a Changemaker in a Time of Uncertainty with Alex Budak, a professional faculty member and social entrepreneur who created the highly rated “Becoming a Changemaker” course.
  • Keeping your Head in a Crisis with Don Moore, the Lorraine Tyson Mitchell Chair in Leadership and Communication at Berkeley Haas. Moore’s research focuses on overconfidence—including the consequences of people thinking they are better than they actually are or being too sure they know the truth. Moore is the author of Perfectly Confident: How to Calibrate Your Decisions Wisely.
  • How Do I Show up as a Leader? with Maura O’Neill, a professional faculty member and distinguished teaching fellow. O’Neill was appointed by President Obama to be the first Chief Innovation Officer of the U.S. Agency for International Development, where she had responsibility for inspiring and leading breakthrough innovations in foreign assistance and development worldwide. O’Neill is best known for adapting venture capital and drug discovery methods to development by co-creating the Development Innovation Venture Fund.
  • The Economics of a Cultural Shift with Steve Tadelis, the Sarin Chair in Strategy and Leadership and professor in the Haas Business and Public Policy Group. His current research areas are e-commerce, industrial organization, procurement contracting, and market design.

Additional programs are in production with professors Toby Stuart, Catherine Wolfram, Rich Lyons, Cameron Anderson, Zsolt Katona and Tom Lee; professional faculty members Robert Strand, Susan Houlihan and Bill Pearce; and other renowned faculty members across a range of topics.

Sign up here to receive “Leading Through Crisis” videos weekly.

About Berkeley Haas

As the second-oldest business school in the United States, Berkeley Haas has been questioning the status quo since its founding in 1898. It is one of the world’s leading producers of new ideas and knowledge in all areas of business, inspiring new thinking for the new economy. Two of its exceptional faculty have been honored with the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Two of its female faculty, Laura D’Andrea Tyson and Janet Yellen, chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Janet Yellen also recently stepped down as the chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Berkeley Haas offers outstanding management education to about 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students who come from around the world to study in one of its six degree-granting programs and to join the school’s network of 41,000 alumni worldwide. Its distinctive culture is defined by four Defining Leadership Principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always and Beyond Yourself.

About Berkeley Executive Education

UC Berkeley Executive Education serves leaders and organizations who aspire to redefine the future of business.  Our immersive learning experiences, led by renowned UC Berkeley faculty, equip global executives and their organizations with the vision, culture, and capabilities to thrive in an ever-changing world. Leveraging the best resources of the world’s No. 1 public university (Forbes) and the surrounding Silicon Valley business ecosystem, Berkeley Executive Education embraces the Haas School of Business mission to develop leaders who Question the Status Quo, exhibit Confidence Without Attitude, are Students Always, and think Beyond Themselves.

Berkeley Executive Education delivers over 150 programs annually, to a global audience, including Open Enrollment programs in leadership, strategy, finance and entrepreneurship; Comprehensive programs (15 days or longer) in leadership, digital transformation and other emerging topics; Custom programs designed and tailored specifically for a specific company, government or university partner’s objectives and organizational culture; and Online programs, in various languages, which offer a flexible schedule with direct application of practical learning exercises. Read more on the Berkeley Executive Education website.

Laura Counts | Berkeley Haas Media Relations | (510) 643-9977

Asst. Prof. Ellen Evers wins top mentoring award

Asst. Prof. Ellen Evers of the Haas Marketing Group has been recognized with UC Berkeley’s premier award for graduate mentorship. 

Asst. Prof. Ellen EversThe Carol D. Soc Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award recognizes faculty for their vital role in mentoring graduate students and training future faculty. Evers received the 2020 award for early career faculty.

Evers has acted as an exceptional mentor, supporting students in their academic and personal lives and bringing the department together, wrote marketing PhD student Stephen Baum in his nomination. 

“Our weekly meetings are a treat. They are fast paced, firing-on-all-cylinders affairs, where I am pushed and challenged to grow as an independent thinker,” he wrote. “As part of this, Professor Evers meaningfully engages with me throughout every aspect of the research process, from hypothesis creation to data analysis.”

Baum said Evers has an “an extremely uncommon ability” to guide him in uncovering and identifying the promising components of his ideas. “The prospect of proposing and completing a dissertation is much less daunting with the knowledge that I will have Professor Evers guiding me.”

She has also provided warm personal support, he noted, from offering to bring medicine when he was sick to organizing card games, hikes, and other outings for the department. “She regularly goes above-and-beyond in supporting me as a student, as a collaborator, and as a human being,” Baum wrote.

Evers, who has taught at Haas since 2015, studies judgment and decision making and moral psychology.