Last semester, as dozens of public relations, advertising and applied communications (PRAAC) seniors prepared to embark on their final hurdle before graduation – surviving the campaigns capstone – those enrolled in Professor Grizelle De Los Reyes’ section were in for a surprise when they learned their course would also include professional advice from none other than the modern-day Don Draper, Kevin Allen.
Kevin Allen, founder and chief executive officer of EI Games and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, “The Hidden Agenda” is recognized as one of the advertising industry’s most accomplished growth professionals. He made his mark as a pitchman for McCann Erickson – a leading global marketing firm – helping win accounts like Marriot, Lufthansa and most famously, MasterCard through his “Priceless” campaign. The “Priceless” campaign, which launched more than 20 years ago, is still an integral part of the company’s branding and is known through the slogan, “There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else there’s MasterCard.”
Seniors enrolled in the PRAAC program are required to complete an integrated marketing campaign for a real client as their senior seminar. Usually, the students are separated into teams and assigned roles as they compete with one another to win over the client with their creative brief.
De Los Reyes has been known to push the envelope with her creative strategy, media planning and campaign courses and last semester was no different. She was able to get Match.com as her students’ client and Allen as a guest speaker to help her students through the process.
“Kevin Allen was no regular guest speaker to our morning class,” said Andy Llado, PRAAC student. “Not only did he give us valuable feedback about our preliminary pitch presentation, but he helped us to come up with a more emotion-driven strategy. There is just one thing as priceless as his work and that’s his willingness to help others. It was an honor to have learned so much from this advertising genius in my last semester at Florida International University.”
Allen joined as a guest lecturer via Zoom for three classes, sharing his expert advice on how to engage clients, presentation best practices, concept strategies and how to think like a creative.
In one of his lectures, Allen crafted an online game simulation where the students were able to apply what they’ve learned throughout the course by taking on the role of a CEO based on concepts laid out in his book, “The Hidden Agenda.” The game helped them learn effective pitch and sales strategies when presenting to clients using emotional intelligence.
“The students in Professor De Los Reyes’ Summer 2020 Capstone course learned a vital lesson, that people make decisions with their hearts and not their heads,” said Allen. “We truly made the remote learning environment caused by the pandemic a very dynamic and engaging experience for the students. I talked to them about my 30-year experience and journey in the business and advertising world and engaged with them through workshops discussing creative strategy. It was truly a very satisfying multi-level, multi-media, multi-sensory experience!”
In Allen’s last lecture, he provided one-on-one feedback to each student in the six teams they comprised as they gave a practice run of the final presentations they would be sharing with the client.
“Not only did Kevin Allen bring energy and enthusiasm to a 10 am Zoom class, he brought expert knowledge of the agency world that was easy to understand and gave advice to students about to enter into their career fields,” said Karen Palacios, PRAAC student. “With personal anecdotes regarding his pitch for the MasterCard ‘Priceless’ campaign, he was able to help us understand what it takes to develop a campaign pitch in an effective manner. Having an advertising legend such as Allen be a recurring speaker in my campaigns class was a highlight to the end of my undergraduate studies.”