wired_com2Adobe held its 12th Adobe Digital Analytics Competition (ADAC) on Friday, Nov. 15th at its Lehi, Utah campus. The annual competition represents a chance for university students to use Adobe’s industry-leading analytics products and access real data from leading organizations.

This year for the ADAC Adobe partnered with Condé Nast—a renowned leader in print and digital media brands. The students were given access to online data for one of Condé Nast’s leading brands, Wired.com. In the past, Adobe has partnered with various Adobe Analytics customers such as Comcast, Backcountry.com, and Overstock.com. Having the opportunity to analyze the popular technology and innovation-focused media website was an interesting and exciting challenge for this year’s talented group of future digital analysts.

This year almost 500 students registered for the competition from 12 different universities around the country:

  1. presenters4Brigham Young University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. New York University
  4. Northwestern University (Kellogg)
  5. University of California, Berkeley
  6. University of California, Los Angeles
  7. University of Chicago (Booth)
  8. University of Missouri
  9. University of Missouri St. Louis
  10. University of Texas, Austin
  11. University of Utah
  12. Utah Valley University

After receiving some basic training on Adobe Analytics (SiteCatalyst), the students were given approximately two weeks to analyze Wired.com’s data and then submit a presentation that outlined their key findings and recommendations for optimizing Wired.com. If a team qualified for the semi-final round, they would have the opportunity to present their analysis results in 10 minutes or less.

Of the 90 teams that entered submissions, 14 teams made it to the semifinal round. From these semifinalists, six MBA teams were selected for the in-person finale in Utah: two from BYU (Marriott), one from UC Berkeley (Haas), and three from Northwestern (Kellogg). After participating as a college for the first time last year but not breaking into the finals, Northwestern came back in force this year with three finalist teams. Both BYU and UC Berkeley had teams in last year’s finale.

adac_judges3This year the judging panel was comprised of Condé Nast’s Chris Reynolds (VP, Data & Marketing Analytics) and Dan Stubbs (Director, Analytics) as well as Adam Jenkins and me from Adobe. After sitting through all of the presentations, we found there was an extremely tight range of scores across all six finalist teams. Ultimately, the Kellogg team of Nastilicious (Esther Fang, Susmita Saha, & Jason Shangkuan) prevailed and won the top prize of $15k. Dan Stubbs shared some thoughts on the ADAC and what separated this particular Kellogg team from its competitors:

Chris and I were impressed with the level of thought and diligence put into each presentation.  Each team was able to produce new insights into our business that we had not considered before. Several teams went above and beyond the original challenge to extend the strategy into places beyond our websites such as social media and overall brand marketing. Their recommendations have given us new ideas that we can apply to the Condé Nast portfolio of brands.

nasti_check2It was incredibly difficult for us to choose a winner because all of the presentations had great ideas that were grounded in strong insights from the data. Ultimately, Nastilicous won because their strategy reflected what we in the Digital Analytics team are trying to do across all the brands in the Condé Nast portfolio.

The ADAC is an incredibly effective way to promote Data and Analytics as a career path. The competition gives students access to real data and business challenges and encourages them to think creatively about how to solve problems. Condé Nast was thrilled to be a part of the process. We hope to maintain relationships with the finalists to discuss employment opportunities after graduation.

As the longest participating school in the competition, the BYU team of Venture Analytic (Ben Lambert, Chetan Prasad & Travis Sabin) defended the university’s reputation as a top ADAC contender and finished in second place ($7.5k prize). With two other teams in the ADAC finale, the remaining Kellogg teams—Kellogg Insites (Lauren Edmonson, Nathalie Rollandin & Michela Wilde) and Digital Dreamers (Iris Chae, Alejandro Navarro Garcia & Trinity Nguyen) clinched the third ($3,750) and fourth spots ($1.5k) respectively to round out the winner’s circle. Overall, it was an impressive performance by all of the teams that competed.

After the competition concluded, we asked students for their thoughts on this year’s ADAC, and we received the following feedback:

“We got to work on a problem for a very cool client (Wired) and that definitely made the project very fun and enjoyable. The competition was very well organized.”

“Thanks for a fun and educational competition! I am really glad I could participate. It is the type of work I thoroughly enjoy, and I feel like I developed some valuable skills.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed tapping into the Adobe tools to use real-time client data.”

“The assignment, working with wired.com data was really fun and interesting. It was a great opportunity to get some hands on experience, learn more about online optimization, and use the Adobe tools.”

“Challenging and exciting topic, interesting client, amazing people, perfect organization, and a great learning opportunity—I couldn’t have asked for anything better from the ADAC experience.”

The competition wouldn’t have been possible without help from many different people. First, I’d like to thank Condé Nast—specifically Chris and Dan—for partnering with Adobe for the ADAC. Next, I’d like to give props to Nicole Conley, who coordinated the program for the first time and did a fabulous job. A huge thanks also goes to John Mellor and Bill Ingram for their executive support. I’m also grateful to the extended team of Adobe consultants (Brian Au, Katie Burdett, Brian Collery,  Matt Gibby, Doug Moore, Caleb Silvey, Matt Smedley, Mary Vardaman, David Yoakum), Adobe recruiting (Kristin Adair, Gina Ghio), Adobe Training Services, and others (Beckie Pouch) whose combined contributions made this year’s event a success.

I know that some additional schools had expressed interest in participating in this year’s ADAC, but unfortunately, we could not scale the competition to accommodate more universities and students at this time. Next year, we may look at extending the ADAC participation to more schools based on the success of this year’s competition. I also look forward to partnering with another exciting Adobe customer for next year’s ADAC. Contact me on Twitter if you’re interested in ADAC 2014 @Analyticshero. Again congratulations to all of the ADAC finalists and winners!