In School of Communications, Students

Y Digital campaign offers prizes to anyone who pledges to wear a mask on-campus and off-campus

Y Digital is a student-run, full-service digital marketing agency on BYU campus. This semester, the students at Y Digital have been working with Provo City to develop a mask campaign for Provo and Utah County.

Aubree Smith, Madison Mingus, Suzy Bushman, Siena Poyfair, Taylor Holbrook and Jacob Curtis. Photo courtesy of Adam Durfee.

This campaign is not focused on emotional appeals or threats that tend to breed divisiveness. The team’s goal was simply to create a campaign that everyone could connect with through winning cash prizes. By changing masks from an obligation to a ticket to a party with weekly prizes, this marketing team hopes the Maskerade campaign will adjust the way students feel about wearing masks as well as the number of people wearing them.

The campaign is simple: anyone who visits jointhemaskerade.org and pledges to wear a mask in all public spaces will be entered to win prizes announced every Tuesday and Thursday.

“We started out in the research phase looking at mask campaigns across the globe to see what was working and what wasn’t. We wanted to make this campaign light-hearted, fun and positive,” said senior communications student Aubree Smith. “We settled on rewarding people for positive behavior. This campaign is not meant to be shaming. Rather, if you do wear a mask, we reward that.” 

Aubree has worked with Y Digital for almost a year. She has collaborated on projects with restaurants, films, housing developments and now Provo City’s mask campaign. In this campaign, Aubree is the account executive This means she acts as the communication point between her team of students and the client, Provo City.

Suzy Bushman and Siena Poyfair.

“Many of us felt sad going into the semester thinking we wouldn’t be able to participate with clients and have in-class experiences,” said Aubree. “Having something interactive that we could do while wearing masks and being socially distanced has been great.”

Aubree is joined by two account assistants, Darnel Apelu and Madison Smith, as well as six other students, who are also on the campaign team. Madison has been working on projects in Y Digital since February. She is the strategist for the Maskerade campaign.

“It’s nice working with Provo City because of their huge network. They have relationships with universities and with all sorts of community members and interest groups,” said Madison. “Partnering with them is awesome, because our efforts are multiplied.”

The project has grown from being just BYU and Provo City to all universities and colleges in Utah Valley, as well as other businesses. Since the campaign started, Y Digital received a Gold Davey Award for running one of the ten best social media campaigns in the country.

Professor Adam Durfee, the founder and director of Y Digital, was 2019’s Social Media Innovator of the Year according to PR News and Social Media Today. Durfee put his professional career on hold to come to BYU and train students in digital marketing campaigns.

Professor Adam Durfee teaching students in his Y Digital class. Courtesy of Christian Smith.

“Working with a student team puts a lot more stress and anxiety on projects because the students have never done things like this before,” said Durfee. “However, working with the students is also what makes the projects at Y Digital so rewarding. You get to watch the students learn and be successful for the first time.

Students in Y Digital go through a selective process before taking the class. This year’s acceptance rate to the program was only 17%. Each student on the team understands the workload and must be dedicated to creating the best work they can.

Darnel Apelu, a senior communications student, has been with Y Digital since 2019. As the content director for the campaign, Apelu works with his team on messaging and framing.

“At Y Digital we do several full-scale digital marketing campaigns that are only on social media, Google search or YouTube ads,” said Apelu. “But this Maskerade campaign also uses traditional assets like posters and banners all across the city.” 

Apelu is grateful for Durfee’s mentorship and the opportunity to develop his skills.

“My favorite part of the project is being able to come back to campus and work with everybody,” said Apelu. “We have really good team synergy to create what we need and get the job done to have this be a successful campaign.”

Darnel Apelu working on the campaign.

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