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IMC student research presented at financial services marketing conference

Medill’s IMC program “owned” a recent conference, Cracking the Code: Digital Marketing of Financial Services 2013, at Bloomberg’s global headquarters in New York.

Students from all three IMC graduate programs – full-time, part-time and online – convened with financial services marketing professionals at the conference.

The conference was attended by more than 150 senior financial marketers, and Medill students and faculty were involved at all levels.

Full-time IMC student Shreya Rai (IMC13) took the stage at the conference to present research conducted the research as part of her Immersion Quarter project with Brand New Media. Rai was part of a five-student team that worked at Brand New Media on a research project for the company’s client, Google. IMC Lecturer Frank Dudley is president of Brand New Media. The project centered around how Google can provide digital customer support for AdWords.

Part-time student Marilyn Stein (IMC14) helped Brand New Media plan and execute the event. In the audience was IMC online student Denel Kopf, invited by Dudley to attend the conference. Adjunct lecturer Scot Wheeler also presented at the conference and moderated a panel of digital marketing and media leaders from Morgan Stanley, Allstate, MetLife, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan.

Dudley, whose company runs the annual conference, said the research project presented by Rai was outstanding and helped the client.

"I can tell you that Google was very impressed with the team and with the output and very happy with the end deliverable," he said.

In addition, another team of five Medill students worked with Brand New Media on research related to digital marketing and media with the financial services industry that was also presented at the event.

The scope of Google’s impact in the online advertising world is huge. Google accounts for approximately 33 percent of all online ad dollars and the AdWords product accounts for over 50 percent of that, Dudley said.

Google is looking to drive customer support traffic to an online help center so they can enhance the overall digital customer experience, Rai said. Her group interviewed stakeholders at Google headquarters, did surveys of small- and medium-sized businesses and benchmarked more than40 companies across nine industries to prepare a presentation and 130-page report of actionable insights and recommendations for Google.

“We basically applied every IMC principle that we could think of,” Rai said.

Rai presented the non-proprietary parts of her group’s research and focused on best practices for online customer service for financial services marketers at the conference, which was also sponsored by Google, Bloomberg and other financial firms.

The idea that chief marketing officers and directors from major financial services companies were in the audience was intimidating, Rai said, but she knew the information well and was confident in the presentation.

“I was really excited, and I couldn't believe that I had such a great opportunity,” Rai said. “I'll always be grateful to Frank [Dudley] for that.”

Kopf, who works in Philadelphia, is grateful to Dudley as well. He reached out to Kopf and invited her attend. Kopf had been a student in Dudley’s marketing management course in the spring 2013 quarter and had only met him and other IMC online students through Google Hangouts.

Kopf, who is social media channel manager for Vanguard, a major investment management company, found the conference helpful for her job.

“The conference covered a variety of digital topics,” Kopf said. “It was really beneficial for me because it was all financial services companies, which have a whole set of rules and regulations regarding communication.”

Because of privacy and other concerns, financial services customers generally prefer to talk to a person if they have questions, so that creates challenges to firms who want to provide digital customer service in addition to the highly regulated environment in which they operate.

Kopf relished the chance to tap into the Medill network at the conference.

Rai said that connecting with IMC students also going through the program was a great experience. Although the three students are completing the IMC program differently, “the common thing was that all of us love IMC.”