Published: Dec. 14, 2023

By Hannah Stewart (Comm’19)

Booktracks AdSpotify recently announced that the company would put more resources into improving its customers’ experience listening to audiobooks. Earlier this year, five students from the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder won a top award for their concept of what that might look like.

Imagine walking around a college campus or downtown neighborhood when you suddenly see a massive book erected just off the path, with people scanning a QR code to listen. Doing so gets you access to a curated playlist to accompany your book—a hypothetical new feature called Spotify Booktracks.

Dreamt up by five senior strategic communication students, the Booktracks team sought to find a new way to engage Gen Z users with audiobooks. After learning that as little as 36.6% of listeners in that age group completed audiobooks, they thought that creating personalized playlists—like film soundtracks—would make the experience more emotionally moving.

“A lot of us like movies, and since Spotify is so integrated, we thought, why not combine the two?” said Tim Pham (Stratcomm’23).

Their ad explained that the curated playlists would “accentuate the energy of the book.” But they also wanted to give users options, which is why they came up with the ability to toggle the book’s soundtrack on and off.

This project was born out of the Portfolio course, in which students are given multiple brand briefs throughout the year and are tasked with creating campaigns. By the end of the course, students have multiple examples of work to show future employers, especially in professional creative departments, said teaching associate professor Dan Ligon.

Spotify and eBay’s briefs, among others, came from organizations like The One Club Young Ones and D&AD New Bloods, which host national and international advertising competitions, respectively.

At the national level, Booktracks won a merit award from the Young Ones. After graduating in the spring, the students submitted their projects to Denver’s One Club competition and were recognized at the 2023 award show. Spotify Booktracks won gold and best of show in the student category.

“It was really cool to be there with my teammates and the staff of CMCI who came out to support us,” said Daniel Girten (Stratcomm’23), who was part of the Booktracks team.

In addition to the Spotify campaign, Girten also worked on a brief for eBay that earned a silver award at the Denver competition. That project became known as Rebay and aimed to make online reselling more fun, accessible and personal, especially for Gen Z. Girten and his team leaned into the idea that belongings often have a sentimental element, and that the younger generation cares about sustainability.

Rebay Ad“One of the things we thought eBay could benefit from was personalization—so that you know when you’re buying or selling something, it’s to and from a person just like you,” Girten said.

To accomplish this, team Rebay proposed pop-up stores, made of repurposed shipping containers, on college campuses. Customers could bring their clothes to be repaired, photographed and ultimately posted to the website for resale. After the pop-up’s time on campus ended, the shipping containers could either be removed or left behind to create new community spaces.

“Every winning advertising campaign needs a concept—an idea with an insight—and both of these campaigns demonstrate the real communicative power of a big idea,” Ligon said. “I’m so proud of these students, after all the work and effort they put in, to bring these concepts to life. It’s gratifying to see them celebrated outside of campus by the professional community.”