L-R: Steve Savage 21EvMBA, James Liang 26BBA, Kent Lemken 26BBA, Elena Lopez 18BBA 18MSBA, Ria Krishna 26BBA, Kara Ciccone 13BBA, Michelle Lam 26BBA, Nolen Ridlehoover 26BBA, Sam Lee

This May, Elena Lopez 18BBA 18MSBA was back on campus to attend the Business Communication Strategy Spring 2024 final project presentations. An account executive for Amazon Ads, Lopez was one of three Amazon Ads associates who acted as clients for the project. Being on hand for the presentations brought back memories. Business Communication was the first business course Lopez took at Goizueta. “It was a very formative class for me,” she recalled.

As part of the Amazon Ads Education Alliance, Lopez works with students and faculty at colleges and universities to “prepare students for careers in advertising, digital commerce, and beyond,” according to the Amazon Ads website. Lopez wanted to work with her alma mater, and in 2023, she approached the Goizueta Career Management Center about the possibility. The staff there, in turn, connected her with Molly Epstein, professor in the practice of organization and management. By spring 2024, the Business Communication students were busy crafting communication strategies for various brands on how best to use Amazon Ads Solutions (such as streaming TV, Thursday Night Football, and Twitch Amazon Confidential) to grow their businesses.

Working with an organization like Amazon affords our students the opportunity to engage with a ‘real-world’ project with all that entails

Steve Savage

“Ambiguity, imperfect or incomplete information, and teamwork are all elements that our students will encounter time and time again in their professional lives,” explained Steve Savage 21EvMBA, assistant professor in the practice of organization and management. “The opportunity to engage in an experiential project like this at Goizueta gives our students a safe space to encounter these elements, many of them for the first time.”

The Final Presentations

For the final project, the Amazon Ads team gave the students two tasks. The first was to identify a brand that would benefit from joining Amazon Ads. The second was to create a communication strategy for that brand utilizing Amazon Ads Solutions. To do so, the students analyzed the possible effects of various solutions on the brand’s growth and key performance indicators. They also considered competitor insights, the market landscape, and other retail media platforms and communication strategies. “We wanted to make [the project] as realistic to our day jobs as possible,” explained Lopez. That meant the students would need to make decisions and recommendations while dealing with ambiguity and gaps in the data.

Of the more than 45 original teams, each Business Communication professor—Epstein, Savage, and Nikki Graves, associate professor in the practice of organization and management—chose two from their respective classes to present to the Amazon Ads team.

“I was completely blown away by the presentations,” Lopez added. “I was not expecting the amount of professionalism, readiness, and preparedness that these students had.”

It’s a direct reflection of the program, and it’s even more impressive that they’re only in their first semester into business school. They have two more years to continue developing these skills.

Elena Lopez 18BBA 18MSBA
James Liang 26BBA during the winning team presentation

“A lot of the recommendations and things the students were doing are actually things that we recommend to our clients,” said Kara Ciccone 13BBA, senior account manager, team lead, Amazon, who was on hand for the final presentations. “It was really impressive to see that they were able to do this without having a lot of experience.”

Lopez and Ciccone were joined as presentation judges by Seungjun “Sam” Lee, project manager—Tech, Amazon.

Judges Select Top Three Teams

Winning Team: Nespresso

The top-ranked team, Nespresso, impressed the Amazon Ads team not only for the team’s insights and strategy, but for its suggestions on how to build brand loyalty. The team’s communication strategy included using a mix of Amazon Prime Video and sponsored ads to showcase a pair of Nespresso campaigns the team created—”Specialty Sips” and “Positive Cups.” The team also explained how Nespresso could use its key differentiator, sustainability, to maximize its full potential.

“They took a really long-range view of the project,” explained Savage.

This team said, ‘Hey, you know the next six or nine months are important, but where does this sit in a broader advertising strategy with Amazon?’ and really built their recommendations out over a five-year timeframe.

Steve Savage

According to Savage, that made their recommendations more realistic.

Michelle Lam 26BBA was one of five students on the Nespresso team. She found the experiential learning aspect of the class “very beneficial and rewarding,” she said. Teammate Ria Krishna 26BBA echoed those thoughts. “Being able to work as a team to create solutions for a real company was an unreal experience,” Krishna explained. “It added to the learning that we gained—coming in with a pretty open-ended problem and making real, concrete solutions.” Students Kent Lemken 26BBA, Nolen Ridlehoover 26BBA, and James Liang 26BBA rounded out the Nespresso team.

Runner up: Yakult

The Amazon Ads team applauded the runner up team, Yakult. The group received high praise for its realistic recommendations and its strategy of testing those recommendations on a limited basis before expanding them. Yakult’s team consisted of Evelyn Donahue 26BBA, Tim Li 26BBA, Ahona Haque 26BBA, and Gunn Bush 26BBA.

Third Place: Bite Toothpaste

Rounding out the top three teams was Bite Toothpaste. The team received kudos for its strong presentation, its mockups, and the breakdown of its financials. The Bite team consisted of Serena Lathi 26BBA, Jessica Wolfe 26BBA, Hanna Florence 26BBA, Bella Ballato 26BBA, William Eaglesham 26BBA, Josh Rosenblut 26BBA and Patrick Horton 26BBA.

Judges and alumni from Amazon Ads address the students

A question and answer session took place after the final presentations. Epstein asked Lopez, Ciccone, and Lee to advise the students on how to land a job at a company like Amazon. Their first piece of advice was to decide whether to pursue client-facing, analytical, or product-side positions. Their second suggestion: after graduating, pursue an entry level role in the digital advertising space. Then come to a company like Amazon, which is what both Lopez and Ciccone did.

But Lee joined Amazon after graduating. He notes there are entry level positions at Amazon, so their experience need not come from a previous role. Instead, students could build their resumes around “different entry points,” he says. To that end, Lee encouraged them to take initiative outside of the classroom. “Think about a problem that you like and try to come up with a solution,” he said. “The solution doesn’t have to be exactly correct. It’s that you attempted it, you tried it, and you can elaborate on that in an interview.”

Ciccone added to Lee’s advice. She suggests students mention the Amazon Ads project—or others like it—during their job interviews. “Talk about [the projects] in a way that shows that you have ownership. Show that you can deliver results, and that you earned the trust of your peers,” Ciccone said.

It’s Just the Beginning…

Lopez hopes to collaborate on more experiential learning opportunities with Goizueta’s undergraduate BBA program. “This project was a really great experience, and hopefully we can partner with Emory more in the future,” Lopez said.

Andrea Hershatter, senior associate dean of undergraduate education, is open to the idea. “It is always wonderful when alumni bring corporate-university partnership ideas back to Goizueta,” she said. “Featuring real-world challenges in the undergraduate classroom is always a valuable component of the curriculum. It especially motivates our students, though, when they get to work with someone who was in their shoes not that long ago. In this case, it was doubly wonderful to have the chance to feature Elena as an alumna. She is inspirational for all. She is, in particular, a wonderful representative for women interested in tech and data science. I am very grateful that she was so proactive in reaching out and creating this special opportunity for BBA students.”

Goizueta’s undergraduate business program empowers student to make significant positive contributions to the organizations they serve and to society as a whole. Learn more about pursuing a BBA at Goizueta.