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Newhouse Advertising Alumni Win Gold Clio Award for Driver Safety Campaign
The Clio Awards competition is one of the most prestigious and well-known advertising competitions in the world.
The concept for “Drive Awake” was developed in a course taught by advertising professor of practice Mel White. She presented students with a project brief that asked them to connect an audience with a global brand in a way that wasn’t possible three years ago.
This kind of brief “challenges students to create the kind of sophisticated advertising that ad agencies are looking for in student portfolios,” White says.
For the project, Milowsky, a copywriter, teamed up with art director Xiong and started brainstorming ideas. Milowsky says his four-hour commute between home and college inspired him to think about driving safety, so he and Xiong decided to create a campaign for Toyota to address falling asleep at the wheel.
Additional inspiration came from White’s class, where students had to present their projects in 10 minutes, capped off by a loud alarm. Milowsky noted how students would jump at the alarm. If the sound of an alarm could startle students in a classroom, then maybe it could also startle them awake while driving.
“I realized we could connect the [alarm] with falling asleep at the wheel,” Milowsky says.
Milowsky thought the idea was too simple at first, but after a while, he says, he and Xiong realized it was that simplicity that made it work. “It took a natural human reaction and hacked it to make it something useful to us,” he says.
The team envisioned an app that could read data from conductive dry electrode fabric, a new technology that reads a driver’s heart rate through strips attached to the steering wheel. The information received through the strips is processed through an electrocardiogram microchip to determine the driver’s level of wakefulness or sleepiness.
If the driver appears to be falling asleep, a phone alarm sounds and wakes them up. The application also gives the driver the option to reroute to the nearest coffee shop.
Xiong and Milowsky both now work for Merkley+Partners in New York—Xiong as a junior art director and Milowksy as a junior copywriter. The team learned of their win during a meeting at work.
“I didn’t even realize it was a big deal until our agency had us all celebrate,” Milowsky says.
“They prepared champagne for us and suddenly my colleagues started to play ‘We are the Champions,’” says Xiong.
White says that it’s creating advertising like this, and winning awards like this, that put Newhouse student portfolios at par with other top advertising schools.
“They worked hard on their advertising solution that solved a crucial problem,” she says.