In working with his classmates on a disaster relief advertisement for a national competition, Joshua Belhumeur recalled having read an article in 2005 about tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka receiving donation of winter coats and stilettos.
Struck by the absurdity of such an occurrence, Belhumeur, a University of Arizona senior studying marketing, suggested his team build an image around the concept for their PSAid submission.
The group, which subsequently developed an advertisement with an image of a young boy holding a blue high heel shoe with the caption, "Make sure he gets what he needs," made the list of 10 finalists.
Anyone can vote in the competition run by PSAid, or Public Service Announcements for International Disasters, which remains open through April 18. Students are vying for $30,000 in cash prizes, and the top three winners will be announced April 21. To vote or more for information, visit PSAid's Web site.
"Presumably, the donations were coming from a company trying to get a tax write-off," Belhumeur said. "But cash is more efficient and helps the local economy in many different ways and for different reasons."
Belhumeur and other students taking Ed Ackerley's Marketing 425 class this semester were asked to develop advertisements. Ackerley, an adjunct instructor who teaches marketing and media arts, also engaged his class in a peer review process, allowing them to present their ideas to one another and to offer suggestions.
The competition, which is in its fifth year and is sponsored by the Center for International Disaster Information, involves college and university students across the nation in producing video and print public service announcements.
For Ackerley's class, the creative process from start to finish took two months.
Lauren Ruggeroli, one of Belhumeur's teammates, said she suspects her team's advertisement advanced to the finalist position because it is easy to understand and carries a powerful message.
"We decided that, visually, this was the better concept," said Ruggeroli, a marketing senior and Honors College student.
"A lot of nonprofit organizations tend to focus on sentimental facts, so we wanted something more along those lines," she said.
The team, in a description of the advertisement, wrote: "When you make material donations – such as food and clothing – to disaster relief efforts, you are taking a chance on what victims need at the cost of sorting, storing, shipping and distributing the items."
Other team members are: Kristen Schissel and Honors College student Aleena Astorga, both of whom are both studying marketing and Spanish; Shannon Timms, an Honors College student studying marketing, business management and communication; Lindsey Erlick, an Honors College student studying marketing and mathematics; and Carmen Lamadrid, also an Honors College student who is studying marketing, entrepreneurship and Spanish.
Also, Bryon Keck, a friend of Belhumeur, took the photo for the advertisement ad the young boy who modeled is the nephew of Belhumeur's wife.
Belhumeur also said the team leaned toward sarcastic humor, believing it would be an effective method.
"One goal of advertising is to break through the clutter and get people''s attention," he said. "I knew we could pull it off."