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MCCC Ad Design Students Create Campaigns for Non-Profit Client Whose Mission Is to Bring Peace through Music


The winning team presents its campaign to judges from OPERAnauts.

In addition to the judges, each group shared their campaigns with their classmates.

Another slogan idea.

From left, the winning team of Allison Gerard, Camilo Chaj, Jeonghyun Kim, and Laura Chavira are pictured with OPERAnauts judges Dana Lichtstrahl, Joy Bechtler, Ken Greenberg, and Professor Tina LaPlaca, Coordinator of the MCCC Advertising/Graphic Design program.

West Windsor, N.J. – The transformative power of music was the theme of the semester for Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) advanced Advertising/Graphic Design (ADV) students. As part of the capstone course of their curriculum (Ad Design III), they developed comprehensive campaigns for their client, OPERAnauts, a not-for-profit organization based in Princeton that is planning an Opera Festival in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in June 2019.

The organization was founded by Joy Bechtler, an opera singer who grew up in the Congo and now serves as OPERAnauts’ executive artistic director. Her current mission is to present a music festival in partnership with Congolese musicians that will bring people together in peace.

According to MCCC Professor and Advertising Design Program Coordinator Tina LaPlaca, OPERAnauts was in need of a soup-to-nuts advertising and branding campaign to promote the event – including a slogan, logo, artistic images, website design, print ads, social media sites, brochures and promotional items.

The students had an introductory meeting with Bechtler early in the semester. She then returned mid-way into the project to provide feedback. On May 7, six teams of students presented their final work in PowerPoint presentations in front of Bechtler, LaPlaca and two other judges who serve as OPERAnauts advisors: Dana Lichtstrahl, whose company, Naked Insights, leads group and individual trainings, and Ken Greenberg, owner of HG-Media, a digital marketing communications company.

The judges were clearly delighted with the end results. “It was not easy to judge when everything was so good," Bechtler told the students following their presentations. “It’s very touching to me how you picked up on the ideas we are trying to convey. We appreciate your time and creativity and for taking this project to heart. I thank you for being part of what we are trying to do.”

In fact, Bechtler is doing more than appreciating students' efforts. The organization will be adopting the winning team's campaign to promote the music festival. As reported in OPERAnauts' most recent newsletter, "The winning team produced a professional-grade ad campaign, impressing teachers and judges alike...OPERAnauts will use their campaign to promote the upcoming classical music festival to be hosted in Kinshasa. Based on these students’ work, OPERAnauts has named the event CONGOPERA Music Festival: The Heart and Soul of Kinshasa. With the help of these MCCC design students, CONGOPERA now has a name, a slogan, and a unifying aesthetic."

Professor LaPlaca observes that the Ad Design III capstone project utilizes the comprehensive skills that students have developed over several years of coursework at Mercer. “The project provides a chance for students with different design styles and conceptual ideas to work as a team for the client. It’s an important part of their professional development. They can add it to their resumes and talk about it during job interviews,” LaPlaca said.

All the students clearly did their homework, as they described their campaigns that merged the OPERAnauts vision with the culture of the Congo through designs, images and color palettes. Among the promotional items reflecting their themes were drawstring bags, t-shirts, water bottles and sunglasses.

Said Illustration major Allison Gerard, a member of the winning team, “We came together and created something we were all passionate about. It was really interesting and worthwhile to work with a real client.” Added teammate Laura Chavira, ““We felt more pressure to do a good job.” Another team member, Camilo Chaj, observed the importance of teamwork. “By communicating and combining our own styles, we came up with a great campaign,” he said. Jeonghyun Kim was the team's fourth member.

Megan Serfass, whose group included five students, agreed that teamwork was a key take-away from the project. “Our ‘Bridge to Kinshasa – Opera Oasis’ campaign reflected a lot of collaboration and blending of art styles. We devoted many hours in class and at home sending materials back and forth,” she said.

Added Alexix Pratt, who will transfer to TCNJ this fall to study multimedia, the campaign was the “culmination of everything we have learned as Mercer design students.”

View a video of the winning team members as they discuss their career goals on YouTube here.

Advertising + Graphic Design Curriculum

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