PHD Grady Creative Collective researches millennials’ travel habits

Six senior advertising students spent five months as members of the PHD Grady Creative Collective studying how millennials think about travel and make travel decisions.

Sarah Dossani, Suzanna Hodges, Tiffany Jaquins, Kim Nguyen, Josh Schultz and Diana Soloaga were selected through a competitive process to work on the project and to ultimately present in New York City to global media and communications agency PHD Worldwide.  The learning partnership is in its fifth year.

“It gives our students an opportunity to look for brand insights and media contact points in a way that they don’t really get to (in the classroom),” said Karen King, Jim Kennedy Professor of New Media and advertising, who advises the students. “It allows them to work with and present to a national ad agency in New York, and for them to see how their ideas are really important.”

Through a process focused on qualitative research, team members conducted more than 100 in-depth interviews and observations of four segments of millennials whom they identified as “meaningful”: college travelers, young families, entry-level professionals and established professionals. Using insights from the research, the team developed “travel journeys” for each segment that explored the ways in which the groups are receptive to different forms of media.

“Apart from the tedious research and the long hours spent late-night in Grady, the hardest part was finding those key insights from all of our research and creating a book and presentation that presented them in a clear and fun way,” explained Diana Soloaga of Atlanta. “Each of us conducted over 20 interviews (of millennials) ages 18-34, so it was a lot to take in and pick apart the commonalities between every one.” 

Members of the PHD Grady Creative Collective rehearse their presentation at Grady College.

As the day of the presentation approached—April 1—the students spent countless hours rehearsing.

“The most challenging aspect of working on the project was the moments when it was crunch time and we were exhausted from continually rehearsing,” said Sarah Dossani of Lawrenceville, Ga. “But I knew that going over our presentation would ensure that it was fluid.”

Josh Schultz of Roswell, Ga., described the process as a bonding experience.

“I really enjoyed getting to work with such a tight-knit group,” Schultz said. “We are all very driven, active students who are passionate about the ad industry, so our group definitely had its own culture. Nothing compares to the bonds teams build when they're working towards a common cause.”

The team members all agreed that the New York City trip and presentation exceeded their expectations.

“My favorite part was presenting at the PHD office and seeing people in the audience start taking notes the moment we began the slideshow,” said Kim Nguyen of Gainesville, Ga.  “Everyone in the office clearly valued what we had to say, and some even started to ask questions mid-presentation, which none of us expected to happen.”   

Josh Schultz presents at the NYC office of PHD Worldwide. Photo courtesy of PHD Worldwide.

Watching the students present with confidence is always the highlight of the program for King.

“The most rewarding thing for me is when they’re all done and they see what an amazing job they did,” King said. “And then to see how well received the presentation is and how excited the folks at PHD are each year—it’s just a fantastic experience.”

Tiffany Jaquins of Canton, Ga., believes the knowledge she gained will help her to reach her goal of becoming a media strategist in New York City.

“Being a member of the PHD Creative Collective gave me the opportunity to research consumer insights and analyze millennial media behavior at the very beginning of my career,” Jaquins said. “It's made me very excited about understanding what drives consumers to make certain purchase decisions and how to reach them with media they're receptive to.”

Nguyen offered some advice to fellow advertising majors: “To all the advertising students out there: apply for this program. It’s an amazing opportunity, and Dr. King is a wonderful advisor throughout the entire process with her endless guidance and York Peppermint Patties.”

Date: April 12, 2016
Author:  Stephanie Moreno,
Contact:  Karen King,