From the Boardroom to the Classroom and Back Again: The Aer Lingus Experience
Maria Ernica de Guzman, MSc in Marketing shares her recent experience to Aer Lingus, Dublin Airport.
I was back in the boardroom. For the first time in almost a year, I was in my element.
Before coming to UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School to study the MSc in Marketing, I was Head of Content and Creative Strategy for a local advertising firm in the Philippines. Being in a boardroom and convincing C-levels and other executives why they should choose our team and our campaign was included in my job description.
Then I went back to school. I was reporting in the classroom again. It was a completely different battlefield. If before I only had to present our creatives to our client and make a show of how visually stunning our key visuals are, this time, I had to back up our ideas with facts, with research, allocate budget for the right channel mix, and so on.
It was different but I felt more prepared than I did months before.
At the start of the semester, our professor, Dr. Julie Schiro, already told us that we were all going to be competing to pitch to Aer Lingus. At the end of the class, a friend, Anh Nguyen, already messaged me.
“Do you already have a group? I want to go to Aer Lingus,” she wrote.
“Me too,” I replied. I told myself that I would be very disappointed if I couldn’t win, given that this is what I did for my previous job.
Then we started to gather two other teammates — Trishala Joshi and Minh Nguyen, both of whom I have worked with before in two other classes. We called ourselves the Unicorns because we all looked up to the underdogs, the startups that reached the billion-dollar mark.
At first, we thought it was going to be easy. After being given the brief, we realized it would be difficult. We had to create an omnichannel communications plan and the target of our campaign was North America. Unfortunately, none of us came from that market.
Still, we persisted. We researched and we took into consideration all of our readings and lectures. After five or six brainstorming sessions, we were able to come up with a solid insight that led us to our big idea.
Following that, it was a matter of creating the written report, the deck, and squeezing our four-phase plan into a 15-minute presentation. Our group, together with the other groups, basically lived in Heaney Room the week before the presentation but it was all worth it.
For the actual presentation day, everyone delivered. All our classmates shared brilliant ideas and we voted on our favourites. The day before the actual announcement, we received a confidential email from our professor — we won! We were chosen by both our peers and mentor to be one of the two groups who will be presenting to Aer Lingus.
I was in another class when I received the email. I had to excuse myself out of the classroom so I could jump for joy in the hallway. (I’m sure the CCTV of Building D has evidence of this.)
Now the real work starts. We had to improve our deck and prepare for the actual presentation for Aer Lingus.
Improving our deck was just a matter of elaborating on each of the phases of the campaign we planned out. We had more time to present our ideas and we could speak at a normal pace this time.
Our idea is basically to present the value proposition of Aer Lingus by creating a fun, disruptive experiential marketing for the first phase, followed by a functional, informative, and interactive video campaign. For the holiday season, we planned out an emotional-driven campaign and finally, we end the fiscal year with a sale for conversion.
Going to the Aer Lingus office, my group mates and I were actually more relaxed. We knew our campaign by heart and we practiced it so many times.
After going through a security checkpoint that seemed similar to airport terminals, we were finally led to the board room. I was back in the boardroom and I actually felt at peace. I missed work but it also made me realize how much I learned from the previous terms. I felt more confident standing up there, knowing that I can back up our campaigns with facts, studies, and strategies.
We were one of the two groups that presented. NGG, the other winning group, went first. After they discussed their winning strategy, the Aer Lingus executives who attended the pitch asked them a lot of questions about their channel mix, targets, etc.
Then we were up. While we were worried that they were going to grill us as they did the previous team, I observed that the whole mood of the room changed as we progressed with our presentation.
While we were in front, we could see a lot of nodding heads and I was happy that they were laughing at the parts where they were supposed to laugh.
“Very solid insight, I could see where you were coming from,” one of them said after the presentation.
They also asked us several questions about some parts of our strategy but we were able to confidently answer them all, given that we had anticipated these questions during our practice.
At the end of it, we received positive feedback and most of all, the Aer Lingus executives all looked excited about the ideas we presented. We felt that all our hard work has paid off. It was a very rewarding end to a fun and educational term.