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, Back​coun​try​.com, and Over​stock​.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!