Competition gives students real life experience

Courtesy Photo / The Rapidian

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / The Rapidian

Nate Smith

Students from Grand Valley State University, and all over the Grand Rapids area have a chance to show off their advertising skills and compete for a unique internship. The 3rd annual Yardsticks competition will be held at the City Flats Ballroom in Grand Rapids Oct. 25 at 7 p.m., and is open to all students who want to have their work critiqued by industry professionals, while seeing how they rank against peers.

“I think that’s why so many GR professionals freely give their time to Yardsticks,” said Frank Blossom, the event coordinator. “They wish they had it when they were 20-something, and they know what a career jump start it can be.”

Blossom is an advertising veteran and won a 2010 Lifetime Achievement Silver Medal Award from the American Advertisement Federation of West Michigan not only for his work in the field, but for mentoring people attempting to break into the industry.

He created Yardsticks as a way to give students a chance to test their skills in a real world situation, and start a dialogue with industry professionals. “There is nothing like it in Michigan,” Blossom said. “No other event brings college students and ad/design/marketing professionals in a creative contest and critique.”

The client for this year’s competition is Hello West Michigan, a company that was created to attract talent to the area. Businesses involved in Hello West Michigan include Herman Miller, Steelcase, Amway and Meijer, which give student interns multiple networking possibilities.

“It’s not every day you can talk to these people in a friendly and laid back manner,” said Samantha Vinton, Yardsticks marketing and promotions captain.

GVSU alumna Elizabeth Miedema competed in The Yardsticks last year, and said it gave her skills that have helped her in pursuing a career. “The competition gave me more confidence for my career,” Miedema said. “The real life critique with area professionals gave me a feeling of what it will be like in my career, and it also gave me a real life opportunity to experience a bit of my future career.”

While The Yardsticks has many networking opportunities, it is still a competition, and Blossom said that the bar is set high for entries. “We’re looking for things that are strong in concept,” Blossom said. “Bill McKendry is one of the judges for the event and he said, ‘I don’t want to see cool looking stuff, I want to see smart looking products.’”

This year, The Yardsticks took a departure from its previous format by only having one client for the competition. “Before the entries included everything from beer ads to restaurant ads,” Blossom said. “We realized that one client would make it easier for students to compete.”

Blossom said the impressive internship ensures that the competition is going to be tough, and the judges are going to be looking for fresh and unique ideas.

“I find the one constant is that the best of show can be made stronger with more effort, more trying a different angle, twist, refinement,” Blossom said. “The judges will point that out.”
The City Flats Ballroom was an intentional choice, Blossom said.

“We strategically decided not to hold the event in an academic setting,” Blossom said. “We wanted a creative space that would make students feel more significant and professional, while interacting with actual professionals.”

For more information on The Yardsticks, go to or
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