Photo: A panorama of one side of Bonnie Drewniany's office.
Posted Jan. 30, 2015; Updated Feb. 4, 2015
By Haley Hinze, first year M.M.C. student
Who Matters: If the space around you reflects who you are, then Bonnie Drewniany's
story is written all around her office.
You can often tell who a person is, and what they do, by looking at where they spend
their time. Take one step into Professor Bonnie Drewniany’s office, and you’ll quickly
see — from the M&M costumes behind the door and the characters lining the walls — that she is all about advertising.
Drewniany unknowingly began collecting the figures as an undergraduate when she acquired
some of the Pillsbury Dough family. "I think everyone is a collector of this stuff and doesn’t know it," she said. "I
actually had a few items as far back as my college days. I held onto them as I moved
state to state." The "official" collection began one holiday season when Drewniany
decorated a Christmas tree with an array of vintage advertising icons. But it was not until she began teaching at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications
that her assortment really grew.
Many of her iconic advertising characters came from former students who graduated
from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications to work for some of the nation’s
top advertising firms. Now, dozens of icons from the past 15 years live on her office
bookshelves. Looking at the assortment of characters as they have evolved through
the years is enlightening. "There really is a change. A slight change, but still
a change. That is, to me, the interesting thing," she said. Take Tony the Tiger,
for example. What began as a sharper character has transformed into the demure icon
known to so many households today (see Photo Gallery on right).
Another corner of her workspace reflects that Drewniany enjoys finding that same passion
for advertising in her students. From her Introduction to Advertising class to her
senior level courses, she finds a number of students each year with a love for the
ad communications world. In the past 19 years, 25 of Drewniany’s students have earned
a Most Promising Multicultural Student title from the American Advertising Federation. These and other awards from the
AAF rest on a cabinet near her desk.
But on her desk, Drewniany’s computer contains yet another collection of advertising
artifacts: commercials. She immerses herself in them, often downloading 15-20 new
ones a day. She loves that her ongoing commercial collection is "constantly showing
the latest things but also acknowledging the history behind the campaigns and merging
She's become especially interested in the commercials which air during the biggest
professional football game of the year — the Super Bowl. This particular collection
of ads inspired her to turn them into a class that would analyze the changes and the
history of advertising. "I had been invited to deliver [a] Last Lecture, and I sat
in on a couple of faculty who were doing Last Lectures. I thought, ‘what would I
do that could be even close to what they did?'"
The class, initially comprised of about 12 Honors’ students, first met in Fall 2003.
During that first semester, Drewniany collaborated with various professors to simply
evolve the curriculum. But by the Spring 2004 semester, the class had grown to include
the Super Ad Poll. Now, 100 students are in the class and they will be watching the
game this year at Columbia's NBC affiliate WIS-News 10.
Almost any agency can win a Clio, but there's only one Cocky Award a year!
Drewniany's office is filled with paraphernalia used during the Super Ad Poll. Referee
shirts she and other school staff wear. Signs. Posters. Water to quench a lot of thirsts
the night of. She delights in new finds each year. This year it's the free Super Bowl
decorative platters she received from a large purchase of soft drinks for the night
of the poll. They'll hold the fruits and veggies the students will devour during the
Prior to the night of the big game, the class has been studying ads of previous years,
from the top commercials to the lowest ranked in Super Bowl history. The class then
meets on the Sunday of the championship, watches every advertisement and rates them
according to a set of criteria: likability, persuasiveness and brand identity. The
top-voted ad wins the Cocky Award, and its creators are invited to speak to the class
and accept the award.
Little did anyone know the event would turn into one of the more interesting awards
in the advertising world and earn national publicity.
In 2009, the winning commercial starred comedian Conan O’Brien. In efforts to convince
him to accept the award in person, Drewniany explained, the students parodied the
ad and posted it online, even getting President Harris Pastides to make a cameo appearance.
Though O’Brien did not make it to Columbia as a result of the parody, he did send
a photo of himself holding the Cocky Award.
The 2015 Cocky Award trophy sits in her office amidst the icons, the awards and the
commercials — awaiting the winner of this year's Super Ad Poll. It's just one more
piece of her space which tells you something about who she is.
Haley Hinze is a first-year Master of Mass Communication student from Greenville,
S.C. With interests in both written and visual communications, she aspires to enter
the magazine publishing industry. When she's not in school, you can find her traveling
almost anywhere in the country.