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Sydney Sivils, left, and Josh Dolin present their winning advertising campaign during Stacey Sacco’s Professional Selling class on Tuesday evening. Sivils and Dolin won first place in the Advertising Campaign category of the DECA International Career Development Conference in Washington D.C. over the weekend.

Students take first in DECA competition

Two UNM students took home first place in an international advertising competition last week.

Josh Dolin, a senior strategic communications major, and Sydney Sivils, a senior marketing and operations management major, won first place in the Advertising Campaign category of the DECA International Career Development Conference in Washington D.C., according to a press release.

More than 1,000 students from around the world participated in this year’s competition, according to the release.

Dolin said this was the first time UNM has won a category in the competition.

“It was the craziest feeling ever,” Sivils said. “They called all the top 10 up to the stage, and then they announced the people who placed third and the team that placed second. Josh and I were holding hands … and then they announced ‘In first place from the University of New Mexico,’ and we just hugged each other right away. We were so excited.”

The UNM duo was the only team from New Mexico to be in the top 10 of the advertising category, according to a document on the DECA website.

Dolin and Sivils are part of the UNM Collegiate DECA, according to the release. DECA is an international organization that prepares students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management, according to the DECA website.

Dolin said he and Sivils had felt good about the project, but were still surprised when they won.

“We were very confident with how we performed, but we didn’t know if there was something better,” he said. “We were pretty surprised, especially because some people spend years going to all of these DECA things.”

John Benavidez, the faculty sponsor for DECA at UNM, said he wasn’t surprised at all when Dolin and Sivils won.

“I just had a feeling that they were going to win,” he said. “It was a very well-prepared presentation, very creative, just overall well done.”

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Dolin said he worked on the creative aspect of the team’s campaign for months and a lot of the logistical parts of it were put together a few weeks before. He said he did much of the creative part of the project, while Sivils worked with the analytical aspect of the project.

“She and I decided that if we teamed up, we might bring the best of both worlds because she knows all of the analytics of business … and I understood how to make creative executions,” he said.

The team’s project was a marketing campaign for Williams-Sonoma that implemented a loyalty program the company would then advertise, Dolin said. He said the plan included print advertisements, kiosk posters and a mobile app.

Dolin said Benavidez helped the team decide what to advertise and gave them feedback on their presentation during the competition.

Benavidez said he thinks there were three aspects of the presentation that made Dolin and Sivils stand out from the rest of the competitors.

“The creative part was outstanding. It looked like it had come from an actual advertising agency,” he said. “They did a really great job with identifying their target market and explaining that to the judges. And they provided good rationale for their media selections.”

Sivils said one of the best things about winning the competition was seeing everything come “full circle.” She said she had her first marketing class with Benavidez as her instructor and Dolin as her classmate.

“I learned everything I know about marketing and advertising from (Benavidez),” she said. “It’s just really cool to see it come full circle. Especially with Josh, because I took my first marketing class with Josh, and then winning this competition with Josh. It was amazing. I really couldn’t ask for anything better.”

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