Skip to Main Content
News@Ivey · Communications

Making history: Ivey students dominate Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec

Apr 7, 2017

Top Ad Exec

From left to right: Tom Grainger, Corrine Tansowny, Emily Zhou, and Michelle Osei-Bonsu

For the first time in the competition’s 11-year history, an Ivey team has won Canada’s Next Top Ad Exec.

Tom Grainger and Corrine Tansowny, HBA ’17 candidates pursuing dual degrees in Engineering and Arts & Humanities, respectively, took home the first-place prize at the nation-wide marketing and advertising case competition.

“Ivey really taught me to have confidence in my ideas,” Grainger said. “When ideas are thought through and well put together, what you have to put forward can be genuinely valuable to a room of executives.”

HBA ’17 candidates Michelle Osei-Bonsu and Emily Zhou also competed, and placed third. The competition initially drew 215 applicants.

The competition at a glance

The challenge for students was to help launch General Motors’ new car sharing service, Maven. Teams had to choose a city in Canada and develop a campaign to introduce the service to Canadians. Maven is already live in the U.S., but GM executives were looking for a fresh outlook on how to launch it in Canada.

Grainger and Tansowny’s winning idea is under wraps for now, but the essence is about making the sign up worth the hassle.

“We identified the biggest barrier to adopting any car sharing service was the sign up,” Grainger said. “So, we created a strategy such that people would be willing to overcome that sign up by enriching the reward.”

Osei-Bonsu and Zhou took a different approach, trying to recruit members through several different media: online, in person, mail, etc. Their goal was to target the consumer at every angle.

Top Ad Exec released the brief for the challenge in November, and the real work began soon after. There were three phases: All 215 applicants submitted an elevator pitch for their ideas in January. Then, 25 teams were chosen to create a strategy document in February. Ten teams advanced to the finals, a five-day affair in Toronto involving networking, mentoring, and presenting their work to GM executives.

The keys to success

It definitely wasn’t luck that brought the HBA teams to the top three. For both teams, it was a combination of a good team dynamic and the right skillset that made the magic.

“Michelle and I are so different but so similar. That is what really makes our team – our different skills and similar vision,” Zhou said. “We make up for where the other one lacks. It was a really heartwarming experience to do this with my best friend.”

“Everything we did, I learned during HBA1 case competitions,” Osei-Bonsu said. “We found ourselves drawing upon so many skills that we’ve learned in the past year and a half. It was great to see how far education has taken us.”

Ivey alumnus Jeff Greenspoon, HBA ’07, gave a presentation during the final weekend of Top Ad Exec. He emphasized that although it’s been a long journey, the teams have to step up and deliver for the final presentation. The last two per cent of the work can make all the difference, he said.

“Ivey’s 48-hour reports teach you how to produce really high-quality work under a lot of pressure,” Tansowny said. “With the competition phases being spaced out in the semester, they sometimes came at inopportune times when we had a lot of other things due. Ivey really prepares you for that and makes you realize you don’t need as much time as you think. You just need to put your mind to it and get it done.”

That’s a wrap!

Grainger brought up his gratitude for Ivey’s Jana Seijts, Management Communications lecturer, for teaching him the ropes of presenting when he competed in Top Ad Exec for the first time back in 2015. It was her teaching that helped them win it this year, he said.

All four HBAs encourage other students to apply for Top Ad Exec next year, and to reach out to them with questions or for guidance.

Both teams won an an assortment of prizes for their impressive work. Grainger and Tansowny each won a Chevy Cruze, $2,000 for Ivey’s Career Management, and $500 for the Ivey Marketing Club.