The 2017 Google Online Marketing Challenge Experience at JMU

JMU is celebrating!

Ubiquitous tech giant Google recently announced 2017 results from the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC). After much anticipation, I am elated to report that students from the College of Business at James Madison University upheld the tradition of excellence by winning five major awards and four finalist awards when competing against over 12,000 students on 2,650+ teams from around the world.

The GOMC incorporated new campaign types in 2017, such as display network campaigns, video campaigns, shopping campaigns, and mobile/universal app campaigns. Additionally, students were encouraged to learn more about and experiment with additional ad types, such as image ads, video ads, shopping ads, call-only ads, dynamic ads, lightbox ads, Gmail ads, and app install/engagement ads that could run in Gmail, YouTube, Google’s Search Network (GSN), and Google’s vast Display Network (GDN). Equipped with varying strengths and skills, all of JMU’s teams tackled this year’s challenge uniquely, creating new, compelling stories and diving deeper into the ever-expanding world of AdWords.

The highest honor of the competition was awarded to Michelle Mullins (Team Captain), Caroline Galiwango, Raquel Sheriff, and George Shtern. Google selected this extraordinary team as the Global Winner of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award. While triumphing over all other teams in the challenge, the winning team also sought success for their nonprofit client and was awarded 2nd Place in the AdWords Social Impact category. This global award secured a generous $10,000 donation from Google for their client, the local Arts Council of the Valley, which is dedicated to cultivating and promoting arts and entertainment in West-Central Virginia. As a reward for their efforts, the team will receive a seven-night trip to San Francisco, including a day at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, as well as digital devices and other exciting prizes.

Raquel Sheriff, Michelle Mullins, Caroline Galiwango, and George Shtern are Global Winners of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award and 2nd Place Global Winners in the AdWords Social Impact category.

Competitive, Diverse, Bold, and Conservative. The dynamic Arts Council team comprised two expressive risk-takers and two analytical administrators. The foursome harmonized their efforts, capitalizing on their unique blend of introverted/extroverted personalities, as well as different junior/senior academic levels and business/non-business majors and minors. In doing so, Michelle Mullins (Team Captain), Caroline Galiwango, Raquel Sheriff, and George Shtern turned their varied and sometimes opposing forces into a distinct advantage to achieve client success. I extend hearty congratulations to Michelle, Caroline, Raquel, and George on their prestigious and well-deserved achievement!

Despite working on a condensed timeline and juggling families and full-time jobs, a team of JMU Innovation MBA (iMBA) students also won two significant GOMC awards. Google selected Jonathan Nicely (Team Captain), Jessica DrennonKen Prevete, and Jesse Springer as the Americas Regional Winner of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award, which places them atop all teams in North, Central, and South America for AdWords performance. Over the course of the competition, the team created and managed an AdWords account for Cradles to Crayons, a charitable nonprofit that engages with more than 60,000 families, individuals, community groups, and companies to serve more than 200,000 underprivileged and impoverished children each year in the Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia areas. After working closely with their nonprofit partner, the graduate student team was also honored to be named the 3rd Place Global Winner of the AdWords Social Impact Award, resulting in a $5,000 donation from Google for their worthy client. In appreciation for their work, the team members will receive a two-night trip to visit Google’s headquarters, digital devices, and other prizes.

Ken Prevete, Jesse Springer, Jessica Drennon, and Jonathan Nicely are the Americas Regional Winners of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Business Award and the 3rd Place Global Winner in the AdWords Social Impact category.

Phenomenal, Sharp, Professional, and Committed. Jonathan Nicely (Team Captain), Jessica Drennon, Ken Prevete, and Jesse Springer worked skillfully and perfectly as a well-oiled machine. The Cradles to Crayons team was creative and experimental but also strategic and calculated. When faced with difficult choices during the GOMC journey, they communicated respectfully, evaluated alternatives carefully, attended obsessively to the finest of details, and based final decisions on their client’s best interests. I exuberantly offer congratulations to Jonathan, Jessica, Ken, and Jesse for their impressive and hard-earned triumph! 

This year, Google created a new AdWords Certification Award for the highest performance in AdWords from a fully certified team. The certification is a professional accreditation for individuals demonstrating proficiency in both basic and advanced aspects of AdWords, such as search, mobile, video, display, and/or shopping. For the new award, Google selected one overall Global Winner and four Regional AdWords Certification Winners for the Americas, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Asia Pacific regions. Again, demonstrating diligence and excellence, a JMU undergraduate team brought home the 2017 GOMC AdWords Certification Award for the Americas Region. Additionally, the team was also named an AdWords Business Semi-Finalist which means they were one of the top 15 teams in the Americas Region. Working together, Nicole Carothers (Team Captain), Annalise Capalbo, Brendan Reece, and Emily Vaeth developed an AdWords campaign for their client, Virginia Discovery Museum. Through curating exhibits on literacy, science, math, history, and the arts, the museum focuses on intellectual curiosity and development for newborns through children aged eight.  Each student on this team will receive a digital device as a prize and a personalized certificate noting their status as the highest performance in AdWords from a fully certified team within North, Central, and South America.

Annalise Capalbo, Nicole Carothers, Emily Vaeth, and Brendan Reece are Winners of the 2017 GOMC AdWords Certification Award for the Americas Region.

Calm, Determined, Reliable, and Attentive. Nicole Carothers (Team Captain), Annalise Capalbo, Brendan Reece, and Emily Vaeth mastered and applied all of the AdWords knowledge they could possibly acquire throughout my course. The Virginia Discovery Museum team unfailingly devoted themselves to perseverance, to handling pressure with ease, and to performing exceptional work for their client. Congratulations to Nicole, Annalise, Brendan, and Emily for being recognized for their tireless efforts and winning one of the five awards in the new and highly competitive certification category!

Other notable recognitions from JMU include:

  • AdWords Business Semi-Finalist (Top 15 teams in the Americas Region) and AdWords Social Impact FinalistSteve Barranco (Team Captain), Teresa Comer, Victoria Landis, and Michael Lantz.  Their client was the Collins Center & Child Advocacy Center which strives to prevent sexual violence and its impact in our community.
  • AdWords Business Semi-Finalist (Top 15 teams in the Americas Region) – Rachel Kirbabas (Team Leader), Allie Hammond, Joey Scully, and Amanda Zwerin.  Their client was Cora Dance, a pay-what-you-can non-profit dance studio dedicated to making the arts accessible to everyone.
  • The three other JMU teams were ranked in the “Strong” category indicating strong AdWords proficiency and understanding of online advertising, as well as a ranking within the highest 16% of teams from around the world.

On behalf of my 2017 students, we are deeply grateful for advocates of the GOMC. The successes we have achieved, lessons we have learned, skills we have acquired, and bonds we have formed would not have been possible without the involvement of many supporters.

Thank you to…

…Google for their 10-year sponsorship of a most interesting, valuable, innovative, intense, and exciting educational adventure. Special thanks to all of the extra-googley Googlers who truly believed in the GOMC and worked behind-the-scenes on operational aspects of the world’s largest online marketing competition.

Lee Hunter and Jamie Murphy for their vision and leadership in creating and developing the GOMC as an ideal model of collaborative partnership between academia and practitioners. They designed an experience that benefited over 15,000 clients and more than 200,000 students and professors from almost 100 countries during the past ten years.

…Hundreds of instructors in the GOMC Academics Worldwide Community in Google+ for their advice and inspiration. Technically, we were spirited competitors, but the interactions from this group were collegial, always focused on the shared pursuit of student learning through high quality teaching.

… many JMU faculty and staff who encouraged and assisted in the GOMC efforts. Most notably we thank Andy Wood, Academic Unit Head for the Department of Marketing; Matt Rutherford, Faculty Director of the MBA Program; and Tisha McCoy-Ntiamoah, Professional Director of the MBA Program, for offering and supporting the Digital Marketing Practicum (MKTG 477) and Online Search Advertising (MBA 625) courses this year.

Mary Gowan, Dean of the College of Business, for her continued support and for inviting me to present to the Executive Advisory Council last fall. Because of that presentation, I connected with Jason Glass, member of the CoB EAC and JMU Alum. Jason subsequently provided a referral to the CEO of Cradles to Crayons, resulting in two JMU awards and a meaningful connection shared among alumni, industry, and students.

…our eight wonderful nonprofit clients for allowing JMU students to represent their brands through online advertising using Google AdWords. An extra special thanks is extended to Lynn Radocha, Digital Marketing Communications Coordinator at JMU, for her contributions in recruiting and vetting client prospects for the fast-paced and intense MBA 625 course and her assistance during the MKTG 477 campaign launch day.

…our brilliant agency partners for reinforcing course content from a practitioner perspective, providing feedback, and sharing expertise through guest speaking. All of the 2017 guest speakers (e.g., Marketing Mojo, Merkle, Silverback Strategies, Workshop Digital, Jellyfish, and Seer Interactive) were phenomenal, especially Matt Weltz, Senior Paid Media Manager from Silverback Strategies, for his special guidance on display advertising, and Janet Driscoll Miller, President and CEO of Marketing Mojo, for helping JMU succeed ever since we started the GOMC.  We are grateful for agency donations of prizes, scholarships, company swag, and career/internship opportunities.

…the family of loyal JMU alumni who make a positive difference by sharing career advice and job leads, serving as course mentors, and supporting others in our learning community. We greatly appreciate your continued devotion to the greater mission of educating business professionals.

I am so proud of the accomplishments from my 31 very talented GOMC students in the undergraduate and graduate classes from 2017. I shall never forget their positive attitudes, strong work ethic, caring spirits, and how they made JMU’s 10th and final year of the GOMC so extraordinarily special.

The James Madison University Undergraduate Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC) Class of 2017
The undergraduate JMU-GOMC Class of 2017 celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Google Online Marketing Challenge.

Without a doubt, I will miss the Google Online Marketing Challenge on so many levels. The prizes are amazing, but my most satisfying reward has always been working closely with such a talented pool of students in the dynamic online advertising realm. I will begin efforts to build new rewarding educational experiences at JMU by capitalizing on our rich history from the past decade and consulting with practitioners and academics. Please contact me if you wish to support this endeavor in any way for our future Dukes of JMU.




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